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China is the second-largest movie market in the world, which means that virtually any film that wants to be successful needs to do well there. Of course, to make money, you actually have to open there, and that’s going to be difficult for Ryan Reynolds new movie Deadpool. The reason being that the film has been banned for, well, for basically all the reasons you want to go see it.
While many nations have ratings systems to give different audiences an idea of what movies are for them, China does not. So if a movie isn’t suitable for all audiences, it’s a no go in China. Deadpool’s goal from it’s inception was to be true to the comic book character that inspired it, meaning that the movie was always going to be violent, and include more than it’s share of language and nudity. Now all the things that have made fans excited to see the movie are the reasons that it fans in China will miss out.
It’s not uncommon for films to be edited for release in China because of these restrictions. However, that’s apparently not feasible here. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the edits required would cause problems with the plot, so it simply can’t be done here without destroying the story. We’re going to assume this means that major plot points may take place during scenes of excessive violence or sex, not that the excessive violence is itself is a plot point. Although, when you’re dealing with Deadpool who knows for sure?
Since obtaining an R-rating has always been the goal for Deadpool, this can’t come as a great shock to 20th Century Fox. Everybody involved has spoken at length about how making an R-rated film was important to character and how they were going to go all out to use the rating to the best of their ability. Whether anybody considered overseas markets while these conversations were happening is unclear, but it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. India couldn’t handle excessive kissing in Spectre so don't be surprised if they have to skip out on a theatrical exhibition of Deadpool either.
It’s hard to say how much money this move will cost Fox. Superhero movies generally do well in China, with even the smaller films like Ant-Man doing more than $100 million in business. That’s probably a solid baseline for the money the studio will not see, though it could certainly be made up in other places if Deadpool is popular enough. However, due to the film’s R-rating, access to the film will also be restricted in the countries where the film will be released and subjected with similar ratings systems. While fans are happy with decision to make the graphic, adult flavored Deadpool film that they want to see, this is a sign that when the dust settles, the studio may not be as pleased.
You can bet the box office totals are going to be watched closely, in order to see if this sort of movie can really be as successful as it need to be. The fate of R-rated superhero movies, and the world, will be determined when Deadpool crashes theaters on February 12th.