What’s surprising isn’t the Chinese’s decision to pull “The Da Vinci Code” out of theaters – it’s the way they went about it.
For starters, the AP says that
“Chinese authorities said the withdrawal of the movie from theaters Friday was to make way for locally produced films, one industry executive said, declining to be named because she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media on the matter.”
Look, I’ve lived in China, and I can tell you: Opaque, if not utterly obscured rationales are the rule. No one ever really knows why something has happened, only that it has. Was it because of a beef the Vatican has with China over the government’s decision to appoint bishops without papal approval? Maybe. It could be a sign of goodwill, since the Vatican loves the “Code” about as much as it loves the Pill.
In this case, the Chinese decision, however capricious, doesn’t really much matter to Columbia’s bottom line. Sony’s already made $13 million from the “Code” and with piracy being what it is over there, they weren’t going to make much more than that.
The real issue is what this act of vagarious pique will do to China’s relationship with other studios looking to invest and explore the Chinese market. It may well be that to “get rich is glorious” as Deng Xiaoping once said, but the Chinese are clearly determined to remind the West that they’ll have plenty to say about who’ll do the getting.