Avatar was named best film at the Golden Globes
China has pulled the 2D version of Avatar from cinemas amid claims the plot mirrors forced land evictions in the country.
Authorities insist the decision was a commercial one, saying the 3D version made up two-thirds of ticket revenues.
Critics claim the film's plot parallels the removal of millions of residents to make way for property developers.
The government has also denied reports that a decision was made to reduce competition for home-grown films.
They include a state-backed biopic of philosopher Confucius, starring Chow Yun-fat, which is due out next week.
But Zhang Hongsen, of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, told Chinese state media: "As the box office receipts for its 2D version are not very good, it's normal for this version of the film to be taken off."
In Avatar, a ruthless corporation tries to force the native Na'vi from their homes in order to mine their planet's precious natural resources.
Confucius, starring Chow Yun-fat, will be released in China next week
Writing in English-language newspaper China Daily, columnist Huang Hung said the smash-hit film mirrored China's rules on forced eviction.
"All the forced removal of old neighbourhoods in China makes us the only earthlings today who can really feel the pain of the Na'vi," she wrote.
In December, a Chinese man was treated in hospital after setting himself on fire in Beijing to protest against the demolition of his home.
The previous month, a woman died after setting herself alight in a similar protest.
Avatar had been showing on 2,500 screens across China. One-third were Imax and 3D screens while the rest were regular 2D screens.
The cinema is still considered a pricey treat in China, with tickets for the 2D version of Avatar costing 30 to 40 yuan (£2.60 to £3.50), with 3D tickets from 60 to 80 yuan (£5.20 to £7).
Avatar is already the highest-grossing film of all time in China, pulling in more than 300m yuan (£27m).
But not all films are given access to the Chinese market.
China restricts the number of foreign films shown in the country to 20 each year, a policy that has led to complaints from the US.