Pirated movies in China

Why don’t Chinese students go to the movies very often? Although sometimes the movie tickets are quite cheap e.g. at Beijing University’s cinema, but at the regular ones you are required to pay more. Often you even have to pay more than to buy the DVD, so Chinese students prefer to either download the movie or buy a copy of the DVD, prizes are about 7 to 17 yuan, less then $2. No wonder the movie industry is not really happy with the situation in China, pirated movie DVDs are the norm, not the exception.

Movies are sold in a Hutong street in Beijing

Pirated movies are sold in a Hutong street in Beijing.

Furthermore the copies are usually quite good, so why would one buy the more expensive version, that is available only months after the movie hits the movie theaters if the cheaper DVD is not inferior to the more expensive one? I am not going to discuss the Chinese attitude on copying in general (in ancient China the high officials were expected to be able to precisely copy calligraphy works and the Chinese character for learning (学, xue) also means “to imitate”). Anyway, the recent concessions China made to the US after being threated with a lawsuit are most likely to fizzle out, as other bloggers point out that this will only be a temporary solution to calm down the US delegation.

One interesting approach to confront the problem was recently made by Warner Bros. when it release the Chinese movie “Crazy Stone” (疯狂石头, trailer here). Just two weeks after the movie that takes place in Chongqing and copies is inspired by the story of Ocean’s Eleven, the official DVD was released and sold for just 10 yuan. That way it was useless to buy pirated DVDs and made the movie highly profitable.


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