The film was set to debut in the country next Friday (October 25) after being approved last month. Beijing-based Bona Film Group, which was an equity investor on the movie, was set to handle distribution in China.
No official explanation has been given for the decision to stop the release.
The big-canvas drama stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in the story of a fading 1960s actor. Its depiction of martial arts legend Bruce Lee has drawn criticism from some quarters, including Lee’s daughter Shannon, who said she felt the portrayal “marginalized” her father.
Tarantino’s Django Unchained was released in China in 2013 but was pulled shortly after its rollout due to “technical reasons”. It is widely understood that authorities took issue with the film’s content, including nudity and violence. The film was subsequently heavily edited and released again in China, but had little box office success.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood could be facing similar problems, or censors may have taken issue with the depiction of Lee. As recent South Park and NBA dust-ups have confirmed, political relations are testy right now and local authorities don’t need much invitation to pull media they deem offensive.
Sony’s Once Upon A Time… has taken $367M globally to date and the China release was expected to push it past the $400M mark.
Andreas Wiseman contributed to this report.