The decision to slash the run-time of the Brad-Pitt produced film appears to be a commercial, rather than political one.
Amazon Studios/Bleecker Street’s The Lost City of Z has had a quarter of its run time slashed in order to screen in China, the world’s second largest entertainment market.
An official distribution notice sent to Chinese exhibitors was released online on Wednesday showing a running time of 104 minutes for the film — 37 minutes less than the 141-minute original version.
Citing unnamed sources, local film news outlet Mtime is reporting the cuts were made by the film’s producers, and not by censors at the country’s media watchdog the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film, and Television who cleared the film for release in early May.
Directed by James Gray, the critically acclaimed The Lost City of Z is based on the true story of British explorer Colonel Percival Fawcett, who disappeared while searching for a mysterious city in the Amazon in the 1920s.
The film’s official MPAA rating for North America is PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, brief strong language, and some nudity. While those elements would provide some opportunities for cuts, local media are suggesting most of the cuts have been made to fasten the tempo of the leisurely paced film.
Analysts contend that distributors are starting to feel more pressure from exhibitors who don’t like scheduling anything over two hours because it cuts into the total amount of screenings, and therefore ticket sales.
The Lost City Of Z hits Chinese screens on June 2, almost two months after its North American debut, and faces Warner Bros. and DC Films blockbuster Wonder Woman being released on the same day, with a day-and-date North American release.
The film appears to be joining what is shaping up to be a new trend in the Chinese market whereby producers and distributors decide to pare down movies as part of a commercial decision to get more screen time.
Bollywood’s Dangal, which crossed the US$100-million mark at the Chinese box office Saturday to China’s biggest-grossing non-Hollywood foreign movie, cut over 20 minutes from its original 169-minute runtime.
The cuts were not forced on them by censors but were made by star Aamir Khan to make the film more gripping for Chinese audiences, according to that film’s studio.
Other Hollywood films that were substantially cut down to size include Cloud Atlas, which lost 38 minutes of its 169 in 2013 and American Hustle which lost 35 minutes from its original 138-minute runtime in 2013.