HONG KONG: The screening of “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey”, a horror film due to be released in Hong Kong this week, has been cancelled for “technical” reasons, movie websites said on Tuesday.
Moviematic, which had organised a screening of the film for Tuesday evening, reported the cancellation on its social media page. Several other websites and media also reported the cancellation of the screenings.
The movie’s distributor in Hong Kong, VII Pillars Entertainment, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A ticket-booking link on its Facebook page brought up a message saying ticketing was temporarily unavailable.
Chinese censors have in the past targeted the film’s main character, originally created by the English author AA Milne, due to the proliferation of memes that liken the bumbling bear to President Xi Jinping.
China's President Xi Jinping. (Photo: AFP)
The comparisons began in 2013 when Xi visited the United States and met his then counterpart Barack Obama and some online commentators seized on their likeness to Pooh and Tigger.
Many people have been using the image of Pooh ever since to signal dissent.
The Hong Kong government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A new censorship law in the former British colony came into effect in 2021. Some films have since been prevented from being shown in the Chinese special administrative region.
The censorship law bars films that “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security”.
Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 after the city was rocked by anti-government protests. The law sets out punishment for anything deemed subversion, secession, colluding with foreign forces and terrorism.
Two films were dropped from Hong Kong’s international film festival last year after failing to get approval from authorities.
The cancellation comes as Hong Kong hosts the Art Basel contemporary art fair with authorities keen to promote the city as a vibrant cultural hub.
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey is frightening for reasons that go beyond its gruesome plot, as it hints at a scary future for major studios whose copyrights on famous characters are nearing expiration.
Walt Disney Co has controlled the rights to Winnie-the-Pooh since 1961 and kept depictions of creator AA Milne’s talking animals true to the spirit of the family-friendly material. The copyright expired in January 2022.
Since then, Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends have been available to the public for other purposes, something the Blood and Honey producers have capitalised on.
The US Congress last amended American copyright law in 1998, extending the term to 95 years.
Book publishers, Hollywood studios and other intellectual-property owners will face similar issues as other long-held copyrights expire. The copyright for Disney’s Mickey Mouse, who first gained fame in Steamboat Willie in 1928, expires this year, for example.