Page last updated at 13:40 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

China renames 'Avatar' mountain in honour of film

Avatar Hallelujah Mountain in Hunan/ A scene of Pandora in Avatar
Officials said the film's images (R) were based on photos of the mountain

A Chinese mountain has reportedly been renamed in honour of the sci-fi film Avatar, after claims it had inspired scenery in the fantasy blockbuster.

The Southern Sky Column in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province, will now be known as the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

Local officials said photographs of the mountain had been used as the basis for Avatar's fictional world of Pandora.

Avatar has become the most popular film ever in China, making $80m (£50m) at the box office so far.

Xiaoxiang Morning News said the mountain was officially renamed at a ceremony on Monday.

The paper said a photographer from Hollywood had visited the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, the location of the mountain, in 2008.

"Many pictures he took then become prototypes for various elements in the Avatar movie, including the 'Hallelujah Mountains'," Reuters quoted the website as saying.

Avatar tours

The renaming of the mountain is one of the several attempts by Zhangjiajie to capitalise on the success of Avatar.

People queue to watch Avatar in Anhui province, China (Jan 2010)
The film has been a huge success throughout China

The municipal government website has also adopted the slogan "Pandora is far but Zhangjiajie is near", while tourists are being offered tours of the locations which allegedly inspired the film, Reuters reports.

Avatar follows the plight of the blue N'avi people as they fight to protect their land from a mining operation.

The film has been showing on 2,500 screens across China. One-third were Imax and 3D screens while the rest were regular 2D screens.

But earlier this month, China pulled 2D versions of the film from cinemas, saying they were not doing well commercially.

Critics said the move was to make way for domestic films - especially the state-backed biopic of the philosopher Confucius - and because the plot too closely mirrored forced land evictions in the country.

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