Disney won’t release ‘Beauty & the Beast’ in Malaysia over anti-gay censorship

People wait in queue to counter inside cinema at shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. Walt Disney has shelved the release of its new movie "Beauty and the Beast" in mainly Muslim Malaysia, even though film censors said Tuesday it had been approved with a minor cut involving a "gay moment." (AP Photo/Daniel Chan)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Walt Disney shelved the release of its new movie “Beauty and the Beast” in mainly Muslim Malaysia after refusing to cut a gay scene to mollify film censors.

The studio said late Tuesday that the film “has not been and will not be cut” for release in Malaysia.

Screenings of the live-action re-telling of the animated classic was scheduled to begin Thursday. But the country’s two main cinema chains said the movie has been postponed at Disney’s request and it would refund patrons who had bought advanced tickets.

Film Censorship Board chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid earlier Tuesday said the film has been approved by the board after a minor gay scene was axed. He said scenes promoting homosexuality were forbidden and that the film was given a P13 rating, which requires parental guidance for children under 13 years of age.

“We have approved it but there is a minor cut involving a gay moment. It is only one short scene but it is inappropriate because many children will be watching this movie,” Abdul Halim told The Associated Press.

The film’s characters include manservant LeFou, who plays the sidekick to the story’s villain Gaston, and, according to director Bill Condon, “is confused about his sexuality.” Condon has described a brief scene as a “gay moment.”

Russia last week approved the movie but banned children under 16 from watching it without the accompaniment of someone over 16.

Malaysia’s censors in 2010 loosened decades of restrictions on sexual and religious content in movies, but still kept a tight leash on tiny bikinis, kisses and passionate hugs.

The new rules allowed depiction of gay characters, but only if they show repentance or are portrayed in a negative light. Sodomy, even if consensual, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and whipping in Malaysia.

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