The international distributor for the Tom Cruise action thriller Mission: Impossible III yesterday disputed media speculation that the movie may be banned in China because it casts Shanghai in a negative light.
Chinese censors watched the film on Friday and are due to issue a formal opinion on the movie this week, said a manager overseeing United International Pictures' China operations. The manager would only identify himself by his surname, Chen.
"These reports about how the movie is being blocked and so on, it's all fake news," Chen said.
"We won't have a verdict until the Film Bureau announces its position. At this stage no one can say whether the movie will be shown or not," he said.
Calls to the press office at China's Film Bureau seeking comment went unanswered.
Chen's comments came after Chinese media reported that M:I3 may be banned because of a portrayal of Shanghai that includes tattered clothes being hung on bamboo rods and a slow police response to a trespassing attempt by Cruise's character, secret agent Ethan Hunt.
Scenes also take place in the ancient fishing village of Xitang near Shanghai.
Despite free market reforms, Chinese authorities still keep a tight watch over media content, wary of unfavorable depiction of the government. It only allows about 20 imported films a year.
A significant portion of M:I3 was filmed in Shanghai. The movie's climax takes place in the Chinese financial center.
The movie also shows the modern side of Shanghai, displaying the city's stunning skyline. In one scene, Hunt jumps off a brightly lit skyscraper.
Director J.J. Abrams says on the official M:I3 Web site that he picked Shanghai as a location because of its juxtaposition of new and old.
"Shanghai is a futuristic, science-fiction city. ... It's also a city that reveals a real cost to its expansion: old neighborhoods are being razed in order to build these monolith office buildings. That was fascinating -- the ancient as counterpoint to the brand new and what's next," Abrams said.
Cruise, who also produced M:I3, stirred a media frenzy when he visited Shanghai for filming last year.
"Of course we hope the movie shows in mainland China as soon as possible," said the manager Chen. However, he said it was unlikely that the film would be released next month even if it clears censors because dubbing will take time.
The distribution prospects for the movie in China are more PR-related than financial. China is still a developing movie market. Its box office still pales in comparison to the US.
Chinese theaters raked in just 2 billion Chinese yuan (US$250 million) in ticket sales last year, while a single Hollywood hit alone can make that amount.
M:I3 has already made US$155 million worldwide since opening on May 5, according to the box office tracker Box Office Mojo.