BANGKOK — The film “Beauty and the Beast” will open next week in Malaysia despite earlier objections from the country’s Film Censorship Board over a brief scene described as an “exclusively gay moment,” two major cinema companies said Tuesday.
Walt Disney Studios had refused to cut the scene to appease Malaysian censors. The cinema companies announced they would begin showing the movie March 30.
Officials from the censorship board could be not reached late Tuesday to explain their apparent reversal.
The board’s decision had drawn condemnation internationally and in Malaysia. Among those objecting to it was Tourism Minister Nazri Aziz, who last week called the decision “ridiculous.”
“You don’t ban a film because of a gay character,” he said, according to The Malay Mail. “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.”
The censorship board had ruled that a shot involving two male characters dancing in a ballroom must be cut from the movie, on the ground that it promoted homosexuality. The sequence is said to be 3 seconds long.
Celeste Koay, head of marketing for TGV Cinemas, one of two major companies that will show the film in Malaysia, said the company was notified by Disney that it had permission to release the film.
“I can understand why they wanted it to remain intact, as cutting it compromises the experience,” she said.
The film, starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens and costing $300 million to make and market, is a live-action remake of Disney’s 1991 animated blockbuster of the same name.
Koay said the controversy had now spread to the new “Power Rangers” movie, a Lionsgate film set to open Thursday in Malaysia.
The film had been approved by the censors. But after news reports suggested that the yellow ranger character might have a lesbian moment, the board delayed the opening so it could review the film once more.
“There was concern that was she was a lesbian,” Koay said. “Now they are watching it again.”
She said the cinema company hoped to learn in the next 24 hours whether it could show the film as scheduled.