Beauty and the Beast was pulled from theaters in Kuwait on Monday after the country’s censors raised concerns over the content of the film. The film’s director had previously declared that the Disney movie includes “a nice, exclusively gay moment.”
“We were requested to stop the screening and further censor the movie for things that were deemed offensive by the Ministry of Information’s censorship department,” Duaij Al-Khalifa Al-Sabah, a board member at the National Cinema Company, told The Associated Press (AP). The National Cinema Company operates 11 of Kuwait’s 13 movie theaters.
The film, which earned a record $170 million in ticket sales in North America and an impressive $180 million overseas, had been showing in Kuwait since Thursday. But those who purchased tickets to see the movie on Monday received text messages from the National Cinema Company informing them that screenings had been cancelled due to “unforeseen difficulties.” The company also promised ticket buyers a full refund.
Al-Sabah told the AP the censors were concerned about a scene late in the movie involving the character Le Fou. The scene, which the film’s director Bill Condon called an “exclusively gay moment,” features Le Fou dancing briefly with another man. While there are subtle signs that Le Fou is sexually interested in men throughout the movie, this moment makes the homosexuality more explicit.
In some Muslim countries ruled by a version of Sharia (Islamic law), same-sex relations can lead to lashings, imprisonment, and fines. The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is notorious for putting homosexuals to death.
Those who supported the ban on the film in Kuwait used hashtags on social media calling for “respect,” and urging the cinema company to protect children by blocking the movie. The film was given a PG-13 rating in Kuwait (it is rated PG in the U.S.).
Al-Sabah told the AP that a newly edited version of the movie may appear in theaters later this week. They may not need to remove very much.
Similar concerns over the film’s brief gay scene prompted a drive-in theater in Alabama to cancel showings. Censors in Malaysia required the scene to be edited, but Disney pulled the film from release there.