Less than a week before its official release date, the official Weibo account for Feng Xiaogang’s films announced that the release date of his latest film, Youth (芳華), has been delayed.

Posted at 1:37 am Sunday morning, the announcement says: “After discussions with the Film Bureau and other related parties, the Youth team has decided to follow the advice of various parties and change its release date. A new official release date will be announced at a later time. We sincerely apologize to cinema chains and audiences for the inconvenience!”

About an hour later, Huayi Brothers CEO Wang Zhonglei confirmed the news on his own Weibo account.

Just three days ago, Huayi announced that it had moved up its release date by one day to September 29th, making this morning’s announcement all the more surprising.

The RMB130 million (US$19.7 million) epic, following the trials and tribulations of a military dance troupe during the Cultural Revolution, reportedly includes a section set during the Sino-Vietnamese war – considered a touchy topic in some circles – and a less-than-glamourous portrayal of military veterans in the later section of the film.

Feng encountered a similar problem last year with I Am Not Madame Bovary (我不是潘金蓮). The satire was also set to be released for the National Day holiday after it was cleared for film festival screenings overseas, but it was abruptly pulled at the last minute. It was finally released in November with roughly ten minutes cut from the original film festival version, though it has been speculated that the delay may also have been because the film was considered too uncommercial for a holiday release.

Youth has already been screened at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month and it is also set for a day-and-date release in North America via China Lion. The company is likely to follow Huayi’s lead, though it has yet to make an announcement.

Youth is the second film to be pulled from this year’s National Day holiday. Last week, Edko Films announced that the September 30th release date for its serial killer thriller The Liquidator (心理罪之城市之光) has been postponed until further notice.

The original announcement directly stated that the delay was because the film couldn’t obtain a release permit in time, but that statement was quickly revised to remove the permit reference. Based on a highly popular series of crime mystery novels, the thriller was expected to be the most popular film along with Youth during the holiday.

The two surprise announcements have dramatic shifted the battleground just days before the intensely competitive holiday slot. Three domestic heavy-hitters remain: Li Chen’s Sky Hunter (空天獵) – co-starring Li and his fiancee Fan Bingbing – Wong Jing’s crime epic Chasing The Dragon (追龍), and Jackie Chan actioner The Foreigner, which is also being released locally by Huayi Brothers.