The original version of the report was written by Tom Grundy and published in Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) on March 21, 2023. The following edited version is published on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement with HKFP.
Screenings of the British horror flick ”Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey has been inexplicably axed in Hong Kong and Macau after the distributor cancelled its release. The local film censorship board told HKFP, however, that the film still has approval for release.
The movie — which capitalises on the expiration of Pooh-related intellectual property — was originally set to be shown in 32 cinemas across Hong Kong. It features the iconic cartoon characters, who have now turned feral and bloodthirsty in the absence of Christopher Robin. However, it disappeared from booking websites ahead of its release on March 23, 2023.
Chinese censors have regularly banned images of the cartoon bear over its alleged resemblance to President Xi Jinping.
In a social media post on March 21, distributor VII Pillars Entertainment said it was pulling the film in Hong Kong and Macau, though it did not offer an explanation. The post says:
It is with great regret to announce the scheduled release of Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey in Hong Kong and Macau on March 23 has been cancelled. We are sorry for the disappointment and inconvenience.
A spokesperson told HKFP they are “not sure” if the film would be shown at a later date.
In a separate interview with German public state-owned DW News, the distributor said they were informed by local cinemas about the cancellations:
Latest: VII Pillars Entertainment, HK distributor of Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey, told @dwnews that they were only informed by cinemas on Mar 20 about cancellation of screening without specifying any reason. ‘We do not know the reason. And we would like to know as well.’
— Phoebe Kong (@phoebe_kongwy) March 21, 2023
The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA), which acts as the city’s film censor and issues movie age certificates, told HKFP that it had approved the film for local audiences:
[OFNAA] has issued a certificate of approval to the applicant. 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, and OFNAA would not comment on such arrangements.
OFNAA’s website shows that the film was granted a Category III rating, making it suitable for audiences over 18 years of age only.
The movie’s director Rhys Frake Waterfield told HKFP that he was not given a reason for the screening cancellations: “It’s quite a coincidence it they all cancel.”
In 2021, Hong Kong’s legislature passed a bill that enabled the government to ban films deemed contrary to national security from being screened and published. Any person who exhibits an unauthorised film could face up to three years in jail and a HKD 1 million fine (approximately USD 127,400 dollars). Several films have since been banned.
The horror film’s cancellation comes during the city’s art week, which will be the first such event since the COVID-19 pandemic began three years ago. Since its March 10 release date, the film has been given a four percent score on the review site Rotton Tomatoes. The top score is 100 percent.
Over the past fortnight, two mass gatherings — by a women’s group and a Taoist group — were cancelled at the last minute by organisers, despite receiving police approval.
HKFP has contacted four cinema chains for comment.