The Ghostbusters may not be “afraid of no ghosts,” but China sure is.
Chinese citizens will not be able to watch the blockbuster “Ghostbusters” reboot, according to the Hollywood Reporter, because the country’s censorship guidelines ban movies that “promote cults or superstition” — with the exception of Chairman Mao’s spirit.
The original 1984 "Ghostbusters" was also blocked in China.
Before the decision was made, Sony even attempted to rework the Chinese title, which translated to “Ghost Catcher Dare Die Team” to “Super Power Dare Die Team.” However, sources from China Film Bureau, the state-run media body that manages the release of all foreign movies in the country, have said that is not the reason why the movie will not be released in China.
"It's been confirmed that 'Ghostbusters' won't be coming to China, because they think it's not really that attractive to Chinese audiences," said one Chinese executive. "Most of the Chinese audience didn't see the first and second movies, so they don't think there's much market for it here.”
It appears an unconvincing explanation as prior movies weren’t seen because they were forbidden over supernatural content.
The Ghostbusters franchise isn’t the only movie series to be prohibited in China. The censorship board also denied release of 2006’s “Pirate of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” because it contained depictions of ghouls and ghosts. The gothic thriller "Crimson Peak" also hit a snag in China.
“China’s government is essentially atheist, and maintains strict control over what media can be consumed by its citizens,” Jenny Cho, author of the book “Chinese in Hollywood,” said in an interview. “While the government tolerates certain amounts of spiritual expression, they “do not tolerate any practices that fall outside of its policies.”
It is quite ironic because ancestral spiritual worship is part of the rich native history of China. The people there regularly provide food offerings to their ancestors at altar tables at homes. In fact, Chinese Buddhism and Chinese traditional religion celebrate Ghost Festival in September when, they believe, ghosts and spirits of their deceased ancestors come to the living world.
It’s not yet known how big a blow the loss of Chinese viewership will be for "Ghostbusters." In fact, some sources say Sony did not have big hopes from China from the beginning and has not even submitted the film to the Chinese authorities yet.