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'Ice Age: Continental Drift' and 'The Lorax' battle for Chinese viewers

'Ice Age: Continental Drift' is opening the same weekend in China as 'The Lorax.' Why is China forcing two Hollywood movies to compete for ticket sales?

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A scene from the animated film, "Ice Age: Continental Drift,' shows the characters Diego, voiced by Denis Leary, left, Sid, voiced by John Leguizamo and Manny, voiced by Ray Romano. The Ice Age sequel opened in the US Friday, and opens this weekend in China.

(AP Photo/20th Century Fox)

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China’s government-controlled film distributor is releasing two of Hollywood’s biggest 3-D animated movies of the year on the same weekend, forcing them to compete head-on and potentially denting their ticket sales in the world’s second-most-lucrative market.

The movies — 20th Century Fox’s sequel “Ice Age: Continental Drift” and “The Lorax” from Universal Pictures — will both be released July 27 by China Film Group. In the U.S. and elsewhere, the two family pictures were released months apart to avoid cannibalizing each other’s box office.

Jiang Defu, a spokesman for China Film, said the overlapping release dates were simply the result of a crowded calendar in the busiest month for Chinese audiences.

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Twentieth Century Fox and Universal have not been given an official reason for the conflicting release dates, according to executives close to both studios. But people familiar with the Chinese movie market who were not authorized to speak publicly speculated that the government may be intentionally trying to limit each film’s take at the box office.

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