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The communist nation's state-run movie distributor, China Film Group, unexpectedly began pulling the blockbuster science-fiction picture from 1,628 2-D screens this week in favor of a biography of the ancient philosopher Confucius.
Paul Hanneman, co-president of international distribution for 20th Century Fox, the movie's distributor, confirmed the move, which the studio learned about Monday evening.
According to the Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, the switch was made at the urging of propaganda officials who are concerned that "Avatar" is taking too much market share from Chinese films and drawing unwanted attention to the sensitive issue of forced evictions.
Millions of Chinese have been uprooted to make way for high-rise buildings and government infrastructure projects in the fast-growing country. In "Avatar," human colonists try to demolish the village of an alien race to obtain a precious energy source buried under it.