The screening date for the award-winning Disney film Beauty and the Beast has been indefinitely postponed in Malaysia.
The release date, originally set for 16 March, was delayed due to an "internal review", said film distributor The Walt Disney Co (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd in an email to a local newspaper. No explanation was given and there was no indication when the film will be released.
A Disney spokesman declined to comment further when contacted, The Star reports. All showtime listings at major cinema chains in the country have now been taken down, the newspaper noted.
Golden Screen Cinemas and TGV Cinemas have started to offer refunds for those who had purchased advance tickets for the movie.
The movie, a remake of Disney's classic, stars Emma Watson as Belle, a young girl who falls in love with a Beast, played by Dan Stevens. Luke Evans plays the story's main villain, Gaston. Unlike the original story, the movie introduces a gay character. Gaston's sidekick, LeFou will have a "nice exclusively gay moment" in the movie, according to director Bill Condon.
Censorship board cuts 'minor' gay scene
The Malay Mail reports that the Malaysian Censorship Board has insisted that it is not responsible for the delay, saying that it had already approved the movie with a PG13 rating.
The agency's chairman Abdul Halim Hamid however acknowledged that his agency had removed a "minor scene" over gay content, but said the edited movie was suitable for those over the age of 13 with parental guidance.
"Once a movie has been approved, it is up to the cinemas, distributor and copyright owner."
He added: "In the case of Beauty and the Beast, LBF [the agency] has approved it and I am not sure why it has been postponed," he told Malay Mail Online.
Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz slammed the delay, saying: "I think it's ridiculous. Come on I mean it is in the storyline so you don't do that if it's there. You don't ban a film because of a gay character.
"All these years even without the gay character in the Beauty and the Beast, there are also gays in the world. I don't think it is going to influence anyone." he said.
Malaysia not the only country opposed to film
In neighbouring Singapore, where sex between men is technically illegal, the Anglican Church issued a warning to parents, the BBC reports.
In a statement dated 11 March and issued to the clergy, he asked them to "alert your congregation about the homosexual content" in the movie which is sceduled for screening during the school holidays in March.
Bishop Rennis Ponniah said Disney films were "usually associated with wholesome, mainstream values" but that parents were "strongly advised to provide guidance to their children" about the film.
He continued: "Let us pursue Prov 22:6 [a verse from the bible]" Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
The Diocese and the National Council of Churches are working on a fuller advisory to its members in the coming week, the statement said.