The British slasher movie “Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey,” which was scheduled to open in Hong Kong this week, has been canceled after the city’s theaters refused to screen it, the movie’s distributor announced on Tuesday.
The movie was slated to premiere in 32 theaters across the city on March 23. VII Pillars Entertainment stated that it was unaware of the cause for the cancellation.
“We are pulling our hair of course, very disappointed. It’s just unbelievable that cinemas cancel the exhibition after all arrangements were made”, according to Ray Fong, a representative for VII Pillars.
AA Milne, an English author, developed the film’s main character, which Chinese censors have previously targeted because of memes that contrast the bumbling bear with President Xi Jinping.
The comparisons started in 2013, when Xi traveled to the US and met his predecessor Barack Obama. Some online commentators pounced on the similarities between them and Pooh and Tigger.
The character of Pooh has been used by some to express disapproval.
British news agency Reuters was informed by the Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA) that it had granted the applicant a certificate of clearance.
A spokesperson for OFNAA stated that “the arrangements of cinemas in Hong Kong on the screening of individual films with certificates of approval in their premises are the commercial decisions of the cinemas concerned.”
The movie, according to VII Pillars, was made on a very small budget and “sold to nearly 200 territories in just 6 months. An astounding achievement within such a short period.”
According to director Rhys Frake-Waterfield, “something mysterious” occurred.
After the city was rocked by anti-government, pro-democracy protests a year earlier, Beijing imposed a national security legislation on Hong Kong in 2020 that cracked down on dissent.
In the former British colony, a new censorship legislation that prohibits movies that “endorse, support, glorify, encourage and incite activities that might endanger national security” went into force in 2021.