The original ending of David Fincher's anarchic 1999 film Fight Club has been restored on Chinese streaming service Tencent Video after an online backlash about censorship.

US entertainment trade publication the Hollywood Reporter says the original ending is now viewable in China, with 11 of the 12 minutes cut from the Edward Norton and Brad Pitt-starring film restored. It adds that the missing minute "is mostly comprised of brief nude sex scenes" involving Pitt and co-star Helena Bonham Carter's characters.

China has some of the world's most restrictive censorship rules with authorities only approving a handful of foreign films for release each year - sometimes with major cuts.

Last month, film fans in China had noticed that the version of Fight Club newly available on Tencent Video was given a makeover that transformed the anarchist, anti-capitalist message that made the film a global hit.

In the closing scenes of the original, Norton's character, The Narrator, kills off his imaginary alter ego, Tyler Durden - played by Pitt - and then watches multiple buildings explode, suggesting his character's plan to bring down modern civilisation is under way.

But the censored version in China found a very different take.

The Narrator still proceeded with killing off Durden, but the exploding building scene was replaced with a black screen and a coda: "The police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding."

It then added that Tyler - a figment of The Narrator's imagination - was sent to a "lunatic asylum" for psychological treatment and was later discharged.

Tencent, which did not comment on the original cuts, has made no comment on the restoration.

Author Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the book on which Fight Club is based, had said the censored ending was closer to the spirit of his source novel.

Brad Pitt and Edward Norton in Fight Club

"The irony is that the way the Chinese have changed it is they've aligned the ending almost exactly with the ending of the book, as opposed to Fincher's ending, which was the more spectacular visual ending," he told celebrity website TMZ.

"So in a way, the Chinese brought the movie back to the book a little bit."

Hollywood studios often release alternative cuts in the hopes of clearing Beijing's censorship hurdles and getting lucrative access to millions of Chinese consumers.

In 2019, multiple scenes in the film Bohemian Rhapsody referencing iconic musician Freddie Mercury's sexuality - a pivotal part of his biography – were dropped in its China release.

Under President Xi Jinping, Chinese authorities have pushed to purge society of elements deemed unhealthy, including within movies, television, computer games.

They have also launched sweeping state crackdowns on tax evasion and perceived immoral behaviour in the entertainment industry, a tightening that has already targeted some of the country's biggest celebrities.

Additional reporting: AFP

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