China's most expensive film, Asura flops

Some cast of Asura
Some cast of Asura attend a promotional event for the movie in Shenyang

THE most expensive movie ever made in China, Asura, has been pulled after making just £5.5m ($7m/49.5m yuan) at the box office in its opening weekend.

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Asura was six years in the making, costing £84m ($113m/750m yuan), and was intended as the first instalment in a trilogy inspired by Tibetan Buddhist mythology.

The trilogy was part of a drive by authorities to promote works with elements of traditional Chinese culture.

On Sunday, the film's official social media page posted a statement to say it would be withdrawn by 10pm that night.

The statement added: "We express our apologies to all those who wanted to but won't have the chance to see it."

Before pulling the film, the producers had claimed the low figures were a result of an "organised, premeditated" bid to manipulate numbers, and said people behind it were "contemptible, foolish and laughable".

The estimated loss of £80.5m ($106m) would make Asura the fifth biggest flop in film history worldwide.

According to DigitalSpy, the biggest loss made by a film was $150m (£114m) by King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, by Guy Ritchie. It's followed closely by Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, which lost $125m (£95m).

Before its release, China Daily hailed the film as "the most hotly anticipated blockbuster of China's competitive summer season".

Yang Hongtao, chairman of Ningxia Film Group, one of the movie's backers said: "It's a very imaginative movie. We wanted the film to raise confidence in our own culture and train more domestic talent."

Asura was heavy on expensive visuals, featuring 2,400 scenes with special effects in its 141 minute run time.

It starred Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Carina Lau, and even pulled in Oscar-winning talent, in the shape of Ngila Dickson who was costume designer on Lord Of The Rings.

On Douban, China's user rating website, one person said: "My god, it's horrifying! It's just a magnificent pile of excrement!"

The film had been backed by Alibaba pictures, and its own review website featured more positive ratings of the release.