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City Weekend

Replacement poster for sci-fi film Arrival lands quietly after outrage in Hong Kong over original

But change from Hong Kong skyline to that of Shanghai did not end the bombardment of negative comments about initial geographic mistake

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 7:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 11:51pm

Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures has quietly removed a controversial movie poster of upcoming science fiction film Arrival, which showed Shanghai’s iconic Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower in the middle of Hong Kong.

The original poster showed an alien spacecraft hovering over Victoria Harbour with the caption: “Why are they here?”

Prominently superimposed in the foreground of the image was the landmark Shanghai tower, causing a storm of anger on social media with the hashtag #hongkongisnotchina.

The poster was posted on the official Facebook page of the film, which stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, on August 16 and was immediately subject to thousands of negative comments and angry emojis, with netizens pointing out the obvious geographical mistake.

On Thursday, Civic Party lawmaker and HK First co-founder Claudia Mo Man-ching said it seemed that people overseas “did not understand or tend to underestimate anti-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong”.

The apparent triggering of anti-mainland sentiment saw the incident draw international attention as media outlets around the world picked up the story.

While attempts to get comment from US distributors, Paramount Pictures and international distributor Sony Pictures have failed, action was taken to change the image. The poster was quietly taken down from the Facebook page yesterday and replaced with one of the spacecraft hovering over Huangpu River in Shanghai.

The Oriental Pearl tower remains in the new image. No explanation for the replacement was given by Paramount Pictures or the administrators of the Facebook page.

Geographical coordinates posted in the bottom right of the original and replacement posters, both of which pointed to Shanghai, beg the question of why the original one featured Hong Kong’s skyline.

None of the other 12 posters released showed geographical errors.

But the image change did not placate Hong Kong netizens, as messages with the hashtag #HongKongisnotChina were still being left on the Facebook page.

The poster change from Hong Kong to Shanghai could be due to Paramount Pictures having exclusive distribution rights to show the film in mainland China.

The studio had paid a record US$20 million (HK$155 million) for the rights. Sony Pictures Releasing International has the distribution rights to the rest of the world and Hong Kong.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the film features multiple mysterious spacecraft landing across the world. An elite team of investigators is put together to find out whether the occupants inside the craft are benevolent or have hostile intentions.

The movie is based on a Nebula Award-winning novella called Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. It will make its debut at the Toronto Film Festival next month, with a general release for North America scheduled in November. A Hong Kong release date has not been announced.

Anti-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong has grown in recent years, with other examples including protests against traders of parallel goods in the New Territories and anger at the negative impact of mainland tourists in the city.