Reel China: Targets an elusive film fan — the Chinese American
Reel China: DVD pirates play it fast and loose
The discussion of THE BUTCHER, THE CHEF & THE SWORDSMAN in the first article gives me mixed feelings. The movie is one of those, referential, self-consciously "gonzo" pastiche films that Hollywood has been cranking out for decades in various genres. Such films have undoubtedly been pirated across China as well, so I have to wonder how original THE BUTCHER will seem to both Chinese audiences in China, and Chinese Americans they're trying to market it to over here. I suppose the fact that it simply IS a first-of-its-kind picture within mainland Chinese cinema will count for something with the home audience, but surely a great portion of the away team has seen it all before, only with different costumes. Then again, that might be assuming that everybody's more hip to movies than they really are, so perhaps the film's box office chances are better than I'm imagining.
In the second article, substitute the word "Toronto" for "China" and you'd pretty much have the bootleg DVD scene here circa most of the last decade.
Bootleggers still operate here, but on a much smaller scale and in reduced numbers since about 2009. Their business is a shadow of what it once was, no doubt thanks to repeated crackdowns (though only on copies of American cinema; Asian stuff gets a free pass, sadly) and the popularity and ease of illegal downloading, itself encouraged by the utterly pathetic options given to us by our two telecom monopolies up here).Chinese consumers are so used to bootlegs that particular pirate "brands" with names like Red Dragon, Monkey King and Pegasus have loyal followings. Some of the more established pirate brands are experimenting with watermarks of their own, in an effort to distinguish their products from those made by smaller bootleg outfits. The high-end pirates don't deal in copies of movies recorded in theaters with shaky hand-held cameras; rather, they make bootleg copies of authentic DVDs, known as D9s, that often offer more features than an authorized DVD of the same movie sold in an American Wal-Mart. Some brands put together exquisitely packaged box sets or collectors' editions.
These sophisticated pirate operations draw on multiple sources. They'll take video features from North American discs and combine those with the most accurate Chinese subtitles from Taiwan and Hong Kong discs. For instance, a pirated DVD version of "The Shawshank Redemption" includes an MP3 file of the entire soundtrack.
These bits are telling:
Given that the government has demonstrated it can stamp out the online and street sales of material it objects to, such as religious texts or democracy literature, many outsiders believe Beijing has good reason for looking the other way on commercial piracy. The business interests of the country's military, the People's Liberation Army, may be a factor.
"It was pretty clear to us that the PLA was involved in the replicating business. If not involved, at least condoning," said Frazier of the MPAA.
"China's leaders are very concerned about keeping the country together," said Frazier ... Piracy "may help keep the masses happy."