Given the country’s usual stance on LGBT media, the permission for Bohemian Rhapsody to be released in China comes as a surprise to many. According to The Hollywood Reporter, there will be cuts made to the film including those showing drug use and kissing scenes between Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury with other male characters.
China’s censorship of Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t new – the country recently cut out a same-sex kiss in 2017’s Alien: Covenant and have refused Brokeback Mountain and Call Me By Your Name from release. However, the country did allow the infamous “gay moment” in Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast involving Josh Gad’s LeFou to play in their theaters.
News of Bohemian Rhapsody’s China release comes fresh off a recent controversy concerning Chinese streaming site Mango TV’s censorship of Rami Malek’s Best Actor speech at the Oscars for his role as Freddie Mercury. When Malek said the words “gay man” when expressing the movie’s important theme about expressing one’s identity, it was replaced with “special group” on the translated subtitles.
The permission 21th Century Fox received on Wednesday is also to be a limited release in mid-March by the China’s National Alliance of Arthouse Cinemas, with the potential to expand if it shares early success among the audiences.
Bohemian Rhapsody has had incredible success in foreign markets so far, as they’ve made up 75% of the film’s box office earnings. Japan has particularly embraced the film, as it recently crossed $100 million in the country alone – the second highest earnings for the film besides the movie’s domestic gross of over $213 million. Bohemian Rhapsody was a word-of-mouth hit in Japan that has inspired repeat viewings, cosplays and chart-topping record sales for Queen.
Considering how much of a money-maker Bohemian Rhapsody has been for Fox, this deal with China shows the studio is taking more risks to expand the earnings of the big hit. During the recent quarter of the Fox film division, earnings scaled up to 47%, to $193 million in earnings with Bohemian Rhapsody much to thank for the amazing profit numbers.
While the Queen biopic focuses on celebrating the music and rich history of the band, only hinting at frontman Freddie Mercury’s struggle with his sexuality and later embrace of his identity, though it is arguably just as important to the band’s story as the glamorous shows. It will be interesting to see how Chinese audiences receive the film when it comes to theaters for them sometime in March.