Beauty and the Beast release postponed in Malaysia

The release of Disney's Beauty and the Beast has been postponed in Malaysia.

The Emma Watson film was due to open on Thursday but has been put on hold due to an "internal review". No specific reason has been given for the decision.

The film courted controversy last week after it emerged it would feature a "gay moment".

Homosexual activity is illegal in Muslim majority Malaysia, although the tourism minister has said banning the film is "ridiculous".

"You don't ban a film because of a gay character," Seri Nazri Aziz told the Malay Mail.

"There are also gays in the world. I don't think it is going to influence anyone. We need to think, we must allow people to decide for themselves."

'Reviewing release date'

Malaysian cinema chain GSC Cinemas has said it will refund customers who have purchased tickets in advance.

A Disney spokesperson told Malaysian newspaper The Star: "The movie release date has been postponed and we are reviewing its new release date internally."

In neighbouring Singapore, where sex between men is technically illegal, the Anglican Church has issued a warning to parents over the film.

Bishop Rennis Ponniah said Disney films were "usually associated with wholesome, mainstream values" but that parents were "strongly advised to provide guidance to their children" about the film.

Beauty and the Beast director Bill Condon has spoken about the "exclusively gay moment" in the film.

It involves LeFou - the sidekick of the film's main antagonist Gaston - who tries to come to terms with feelings for Gaston that swing between lust and admiration, as a side-plot to the main story.

Last week, a Russian MP petitioned Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky to ban the film over the inclusion of a gay character but the country's culture ministry granted permission to screen the film, with a 16+ age rating.

A Russian law prohibits the spreading of "gay propaganda" among minors.

Emma Watson plays Belle, the young girl who falls in love with a monstrous beast with a dark secret.

Her suitors - the Beast and Gaston - are played by British stars Dan Stevens and Luke Evans.

The film opens in the UK on Friday.