KUWAIT: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was pulled from theatres in Kuwait yesterday. The step comes as the Ministry of Information asked theatre companies to make additional cuts to the film. The popular Disney movie was recently remade with UK actress Emma Watson as lead character, Belle. But it has sparked controversy within the first week of release in some Muslim countries due to alleged ‘gay’ scenes. Malaysia has banned the film after Disney refused to remove the controversial scenes.

In Kuwait, the movie has not been officially banned and was in fact shown in theatres since its release on March 16. But yesterday, the Information Ministry called for additional scenes to be cut. Duaij Al-Khalifa Al-Sabah, a board member at the National Cinema Company, which operates 11 of Kuwait’s 13 movie theaters said a newly edited version of the movie may be in theaters later this week.

He said concerns center on a scene late in the movie involving the character LeFou, which director Bill Condon describes as an “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,” Al-Sabah said.

Both Cinescape (Kuwait National Cinema Company) and Grand Cinemas halted ticket purchases. Cinescape offered refunds for the film to those who had already bought tickets. “A huge production like Disney movies are known to draw a great deal of attention in Kuwait from both censors and film viewers,” explained Sheikh Duaij.

“Today, we are submitting Beauty and the Beast [for approval] after second amendments. The movie is not banned from Kuwait,” he told Kuwait Times. Sheikh Duaij noted that it was not uncommon for the ministry censors to ask for a second cut of scenes from movies, even after they had been released. An official from the Grand Cinemas said that Beauty and the Beast was still showing on their screens until last night.

“We continued rolling the movie as normal because people have already bought the tickets. However, we will stop selling tickets until we receive the second package of the film,” he explained, referring the second censored version. The Ministry of Information did not respond immediately to requests for comment. It is not clear when or if the second censored version of the film will be approved for release in Kuwait.

In some predominantly Muslim countries, same-sex relations can lead to lashings, imprisonment and fines. In a few, it carries the death penalty. Those in support of the ban on the film in Kuwait launched hashtags 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. Disney officials did not immediately respond to a request of comment. Similar concerns over the film’s brief scene prompted a drive-in theater in the US state of Alabama to cancel showings. Censors in Malaysia required the scene be edited, but Disney pulled the film from release there.

By Athoob Al-Shuaibi, Agencies