Nicolas Cage is officially an outcast in China.
Cage's latest movie, "Outcast," about the exploits of two crusaders in China during the 12th century, has suddenly been pulled from theaters in China, underscoring how unpredictable the country can be for filmmakers eager to exploit the world's second largest film market.
"Outcast," which also stars Hayden Christensen, had been scheduled to debut today in China. But its release was halted shortly because the movie was set to be shown in more than 5,000 theaters.
“I’m confounded,” said Jeremy Bolt, one of the film’s producers. “A delay within 24 hours of the release is extremely unusual. We went through all the proper approvals. I just don’t know what to say.”
Bolt said he learned about the decision on Friday from his Chinese partner and the film's principal financier, Yunnan Film Group.
Yunnan sent a last-minute fax to the movie's distributor Huaxi Film, saying that because of the movie's "foreign investor and international distributor" the film's release was being postponed, according to the Chinese film movie site MTime.com. No new release date for "Outcast" has been set.
The movie is a French-Canada-China co-production involving Arclight Films, based in the U.S. and Australia; Bolt of the U.K.’s Notorious Films and producer of "Resident Evil;" France’s 22h22; and Canada’s Media Max Prods.
Representatives ArcLight could not be immediately reached for comment.
The reasons for the decision aren't clear, but it comes as China is heading into a national holiday that starts Oct. 1 and runs through Oct. 7.
Such busy movie-going times are often “blackout periods” where no foreign films are allowed to be shown. As an official Chinese co-production, “Outcast” theoretically should have been exempt from such restrictions. The movie was shot in China and has a Chinese story line.
But film bureau authorities can be sensitive about such things and may have decided to make a change at the last minute.
No “foreign” films are scheduled for release in the mainland until Oct. 10, when “Guardians of the Galaxy” is expected to arrive in theaters.
It's not the first time a foreign movie has been pulled from theaters in China, where Hollywood studios have been frustrated by quotas that limit the number of foreign movies allowed into the country under a revenue-sharing agreement and how much ticket sales they can collect.
Last year, Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” was yanked from theaters shortly after it opened in China reportedly because of concerns over scenes of nudity and violence.
After some offending scenes were removed, China’s State Administration for Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) allowed it back into theaters about a month later.
And last May, China's film censors also refused to release the Paramount Pictures biblical epic "Noah," starring Russell Crowe.
Verrier reported from Los Angeles, Makinen reported from Beijing.