Cinemas in China's earthquake-hit Sichuan Province have decided to postpone the release of DreamWorks' Kungfu Panda for five days in the wake of recent protests about the film.

The film opened in China on Friday, June 20 except for all cinemas in Sichuan Province.

Sichuan's five cinema circuits - Pacific Cinema Circuit, Wanda Cinema Circuit, Chengdu Stella Megamedia, Shanghai United Cinema Circuit in Sichuan and Emei Cinema Circuit - issued a joint statement on Thursday evening to postpone releasing the film, due to 'some audience's opinion and due to lack of understanding of the film'.

The protest was started last Tuesday by Sichuan-born painter and performance artist Zhao Bandi. He called for a boycott of the film and visited the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) holding a banner that said: 'We will not tolerate Hollywood reaping huge profits from disaster-stricken China'.

Zhao also met with SARFT director Tong Gang and said that the film exploited China's national treasures - the panda and Chinese kung-fu.

In response, Tong told Zhao that the Film Bureau understood his feelings but as Kungfu Panda had passed censorship, it could not block the film.

Zhao went on to suggest that the film should not to be shown in Sichuan, the location of the May 12 earthquake and also home of China's panda population, because 'people in the disaster area are still emotionally fragile'.

Originally an oil painter, Zhao starting using the panda five years ago as the trademark of his art works. He is known for carrying a toy panda on his shoulder and has created photo exhibitions, videos and fashion shows related to pandas.

Although many believed that Zhao's protest might just be a part of his publicity stunts related to his panda-themed shows, Sichuan residents began to echo Zhao's action. Several protesters gathered in a few cinemas in Chengdu City calling for a boycott of Kungfu Panda.

A Sichuan cinema manager told Shanghai Morning Post that he wants to fine an appropriate way to introduce the story and characters of the film to the audience, so that there would be less misunderstanding, and itcan resume screening as soon as possible.