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The late Heath Ledger, who played the Joker in The Dark Knight, is considered a frontrunner for an Oscar and a Golden, although the film won't air on the big screen in China. ((Warner Bros./Associated Press))

Movie buffs in China won't be able to see the blockbuster Batman film The Dark Knight on the big screen.

Citing "cultural sensitivities in some elements of the film," Warner Bros. said in a statement on Friday that it has cancelled the release of the 2008 hit in mainland China.

It did not elaborate on what it meant by "cultural sensitivities," but the New York Times speculated that the Hollywood studio may have been concerned Chinese censors would be offended by scenes shot in Hong Kong, including those in which Batman, played by Christian Bale, nabs a Chinese money launderer.

Another potential point of conflict, it noted, was a brief appearance by Edison Chen, the Hong Kong singer and record producer who appeared in sexually explicit photographs posted on the internet in 2008.

The studio did not present the film to Chinese government censors for their consideration.

But pirated copies of the movie have been available in China for months.

Memoirs of a Geisha, Brokeback Mountain also banned

The 2005 Memoirs of a Geisha was banned by Chinese censors who thought the sight of Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li playing Japanese courtesans would offend mainland viewers.

And Taiwanese director Ang Lee's 2005 gay cowboy drama Brokeback Mountain was also denied release in China.

The Dark Knight, however, is currently showing in Hong Kong, a Chinese-ruled former British colony.

The late Heath Ledger, who starred in Brokeback Mountain, winning an Oscar nomination, plays the Joker in Dark Knight, and is considered a frontrunner for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe.

The Dark Knight has made more than $531 million US at box offices in the U.S. alone, making it the second highest-grossing film ever in the U.S. behind the 1997 film Titanic's $1.8 billion US.