The theatrical release of blockbuster Marvel movie “Thor Love and Thunder” is not moving ahead in Malaysia. It had been scheduled for distribution from July 21, 2022, after previously enduring a two delay.
The latest, possibly indefinite, postponement was announced by the country’s two leading cinema operators GSC and TGV Cinemas on their social media feeds.
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“Disney has updated us that the release of #ThorLoveandThunder in Malaysia is now ‘TBA’ – release date is now undated. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and appreciate your patience in this matter as we await more updates from Disney,” said GSC in identical messages on Twitter and Facebook.
The chain said that refunds would be available to patrons who had pre-bought tickets.
Contacted by Variety, a Disney spokesman in Asia said only, “We will advise when we have new updates.”
Directed by Taika Waititi, the film was released on July 8 in North America, where it has grossed $170 million to date. Worldwide, “Thor” has already accumulated $329 million.
The postponement move is the second lost release of a Disney-handled movie in Malaysia in the space of a month. In June, the release of Pixar animation “Lightyear” was canceled in Malaysia after the country’s censorship authority (LPF) asked for cuts to the film, understood to include a same-sex kiss, in order for the film to obtain release certification. Disney declined to make the cuts and is expected to put “Lightyear” out directly on streaming service Disney+ Hotstar.
Malaysia is a market that is normally fertile ground for Hollywood movies, but one where the theatrical scene has been hugely disrupted by the side-effects of COVID. Cinema admissions dropped from an average of 77 million per year in the 2017-2019 period to just 3.72 million in 2021. Exhibitors also complain that the theatrical window in the country has now halved from 90 days to just 45 days, and that they must pay a 25% entertainment tax that is not applied to streaming platforms.
With the “Thor” already available in cinemas in neighboring Indonesia (since July 6) and Singapore (July 7), any further delay in the release exposes it to piracy, which is an enduring problem in Malaysia.
While Malaysia was one of nearly twenty, mostly Muslim-majority countries which objected to the homosexual tinges of “Lightyear,” the reasons for the halting of “Thor: Love and Thunder” are less clear. Some Malaysian commentators pointed to brief nudity and the implied LGBT-leanings of some secondary characters in the film as possible reasons that the film may have run into censorship problems with the LPF.
Other commentators focused their criticism on Disney. Some suggested that the indefinite postponement was Disney’s revenge on the country for the “Lightyear” episode, while others said that Disney was worried about the film’s prospects competing against “Mat Kilau: Kebangkitan Pahlawan” which has recently become the highest grossing Malaysian film of all time. with more than $12 million earned across the three (separate) territories of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The release of “Thor” was previously delayed from July 7 to July 21.
Politics and religion could also be at play. Malaysia has previously banned many high-profile Hollywood movies. These include: “The Prince of Egypt,” for visually depicting the Prophet Mohammed; “Schindler’s List,” described as “propaganda asking for sympathy”; and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which was funded with money allegedly drained from Malaysia’s 1MDB fund. Others banned include animation “Babe” and “Zoolander.”
In recent weeks, the LPF, acting on the advice of the foreign ministry, also banned Hong Kong pro-democracy documentary “May You Stay Forever Young” for fear of damaging bilateral relations with China.
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