The screening of Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning film Django Unchained on the mainland was abruptly cancelled on its opening day yesterday for what cinemas called "technical reasons".
The general manager of the Beichen Fortune Centre movie theatre in Kunming , Tian Zaixing, said he could not recall another imported film being halted on its first day.
The order from the China Film Group had come in a phone call at about 10am, Tian said.
Stellar International Cineplex, one of the mainland's largest cinema chains, said on its official Sina Weibo microblog that the cancellation was due to "technical reasons" but did not say whether the film would return.
The sudden cancellation of the viewing triggered complaints against the media censor, the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (GAPPRFT), which was newly formed in a cabinet revamp last month.
"Only one minute after the screening started, it stopped," a disappointed Sina Weibo microblogger in Beijing wrote.
"The unchained Django is chained in China, by GAPPRFT," another microblogger said.
Many internet users suspect the cancellation was caused by nude scenes in the film, which include ones showing Django naked and hanging upside down.
Before yesterday, fans and media were cheering for the debut of Tarantino's first commercial release on the mainland.
In an early interview with Southern Metropolis News, the director of Sony Pictures' mainland office, Zhang Miao, said the director had agreed to "slight adjustments", which included "toning down the bloody scenes to darker colour and lowering the height of the splatter of blood".
Fans soon found ways to bypass the censors by widely circulating links for downloading the original version of the film.
The film's distributors, China Film Group and Huaxia Film Distribution, were not available for comment.
China has passed Japan to become the world's second-largest film market, behind the US, with box office takings of 17.07 billion yuan (HK$21 billion) last year.