Screenings of British horror flick Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey have been inexplicably axed in Hong Kong and Macau after the distributor cancelled its release. The local film censorship board told HKFP, however, that the film still has approval for release.

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey
Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. Photo: Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.

The movie – which capitalises on the expiration of Pooh-related intellectual property – was originally set to be shown in 32 cinemas across Hong Kong. However, it disappeared from booking websites ahead of its Thursday release.

Chinese censors have regularly banned images of the cartoon bear over its alleged resemblance to President Xi Jinping.

Unexplained cancellation

In a Tuesday night social media post, distributor VII Pillars Entertainment said it was pulling the film in Hong Kong and Macau, though did not offer an explanation: “It is with great regret to announce the scheduled release of Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey in Hong Kong and Macau on March 23 has been cancelled. We are sorry for the disappointment and inconvenience,” a post read.

A spokesperson told HKFP they they are “not sure” if the film would be shown at a later date.

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The Office for Film, Newspaper and Article Administration (OFNAA), which acts as the city’s film censor and issues movie age certificates, told HKFP that it had approved the film for local audiences.

“[OFNAA] has issued a certificate of approval to the applicant. The arrangements of cinemas in Hong Kong on the screening of individual films with certificates of approval in their premises are the commercial decisions of the cinemas concerned, and OFNAA would not comment on such arrangements,” a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey
Certification for Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. Photo: OFNAA.

OFNAA’s website shows that the film was granted a Category III rating – making it suitable for audiences over 18 years of age only.

The move’s director Rhys Frake Waterfield told HKFP that he was not given a reason for the screening cancellations: “It’s quite a coincidence it they all cancel.”

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In 2021, Hong Kong’s legislature passed a bill which enabled the government to ban films deemed contrary to national security from being screened and published. Any person who exhibits an unauthorised film could face up to three years in jail and a HK$1 million fine. Several films have since been banned.

The horror film’s cancellation comes during the city’s art week, as it seeks to reopen after years of Covid isolation.

Over the past fortnight, two mass gatherings – by a women’s group, and a Taoist group – were cancelled at the last minute by organisers, despite receiving police approval.

HKFP has contacted four cinema chains for comment.

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Tom founded Hong Kong Free Press in 2015 and is the editor-in-chief. In addition to editing, he is responsible for managing the newsroom and company - including fundraising, recruitment and overseeing HKFP's web presence and ethical guidelines.

He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He previously led an NGO advocating for domestic worker rights, and has contributed to the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al-Jazeera and others.