Starring renowned Chinese actors – Jet Li, Gong Li, Donnie Yen and Liu Yifei – and based on a Chinese folk story, Mulan was designed to draw audiences to China, the world’s second largest cinema market.
But mixed reviews online and theatrical capacity limits due to coronavirus prevention measures were likely to weigh on its box office performance, even before mainstream media received an abstention notice. to cover the film.
Three sources said Reuters media received the notice, two of which said it was sent by China’s cyberspace administration. A fourth source from a major Chinese newspaper said she received a text message with a similar order from a senior colleague.
No reason was given in the notice, but the sources said it was because of negative reactions abroad about the film’s ties to Xinjiang.
Neither the Cyberspace Administration nor Disney immediately responded to requests for comment.
Shot partly in Xinjiang, Mulan’s credits included thanks to local authorities, prompting calls abroad for a boycott of the film. China’s crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang has been criticized by some governments, including the United States, and human rights groups.
The Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, on Wednesday criticized the backlash against the film in an editorial in its English edition, describing it as “another manifestation of extreme ideologies regarding China among the ‘American public opinion’.
Disney had worked to ensure Mulan was well tested with the Chinese public, and the company’s chief financial officer told investors on Wednesday he was “very happy” with the early results of its release elsewhere.
The film has been released on Disney’s streaming service in many markets, rather than theaters, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mulan is expected to air on more than 40% of Chinese screens on Friday, according to data from Maoyan, a ticketing platform backed by Tencent. Chinese theaters are currently limiting their capacity, usually to 50%.
The film had sold 9.78 million yuan ($ 1.43 million) in tickets Thursday afternoon, or 55% of all ticket sales sold across China for Friday’s shows.
An analyst, who declined to be named because he said the situation was delicate, predicted that the film would make 150 million yuan at the mainland’s box offices, given early reviews from audiences.
The film, which many have seen online, received a rating of 4.7 out of 10 on the popular social media site Douban, where users leave reviews of films, books and music.