Sony declined to comment.
The decision on “Smurfs” comes after Chinese authorities denied access to Paramount’s “World War Z” and Universal’s “Despicable Me 2.” The former at least came as a surprise as some insiders close to the pic expected a Chinese release this fall. The original “Despicable Me” never played in the country.
“Smurfs 2” may have gotten the greenlight to open in China, but it hasn’t gotten a release date, and its distribution is by no means guaranteed. Known for a mercurial decision-making process, the Chinese government has routinely changed its mind regarding the distribution of foreign films, often with little notice or explanation. Recently the share of local pics has grown in proportion to imported films.
Chinese censors rigorously scrutinize each foreign film, often taking issue with a film even after a decision on whether to let it into the country has been made. Earlier this year, regulators pulled “Django Unchained” and “The Croods” from theaters after both films had already opened.
Despite these difficulties, foreign distributors continue to try and claw their way into the booming Chinese marketplace. Universal’s “Fast and Furious 6” opens on Chinese screens Friday.
Sony’s original “Smurfs” earned $40 million when it opened in China in January 2012.