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China release date for Dark Knight still unconfirmed

While The Dark Knight Rises tears up the box office in other international territories, its release date in China remains uncertain, although the film has passed censorship and was originally scheduled for a late August release.

The film is listed on the summer release schedule of the partly state-owned China Film Stellar theatre circuit, issued today (July 20), but is listed as “release date to be confirmed”. 

According to previous schedules, Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises and Sony’s The Amazing Spider-man were both set for release on August 30. Industry insiders say the US studios may have negotiated with China Film Group to avoid the clash between two of the summer’s biggest films.

The Amazing Spider-Man is still scheduled to open on August 30, according to the most recent China Film Stellar schedule.

A source from the Chinese exhibition sector said The Dark Knight Rises will likely open in September, but that scheduling will be difficult, as it’s a busy month for both local and imported releases. It’s also a politically sensitive period during which the Chinese government hands over power to the next generation of leaders.

The schedule of the China Film Stellar theatre chain also implies that there won’t be any US films released before August 30, apart from animations The Lorax and Ice Age : Continental Drift and a flat fee import from Lionsgate, The Lincoln Lawyer, which opens on August 15. The Lorax and Ice Age: Continental Drift are both scheduled to open on July 27.

The scheduling suggests that the on-going blackout, known as the “local film protection month”, has been extended from July into late August. This is in contrast to last summer when films such as Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part II and The Smurfs dominated the mainland China film market in July and August.

This year the blackout started on June 20 when local fantasy blockbuster Painted Skin II was released. The blackout helped boost the film’s box office to more than $95m (RMB600m), while other local films such as Gordon Chan’s action drama The Four and Chen Kaige’s social drama Caught In The Web have also performed well.

With the blackout extended to August, Chinese moviegoers will also have a longer wait for other Hollywood blockbusters such as Prometheus and The Bourne Legacy.

Local press reported that Chinese moviegoers are expressing their anger over the blackout on Chinese microblogging site Weibo. Some said they will boycott the protected Chinese films. “I will lie in my home the whole of August,” said one netizen quoted by local press. “It will be the loss of movie theatres. They will let the golden movie season become trash season,” another said.

If The Dark Knight Rises is pushed to September, it may go head to head with Prometheus, The Expendables 2 and local big-budget productions Tai Chi 0, Switch and Dangerous Liaisons

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