The Movie Industry and China

An article on the contradictions and opportunities being pursued in the Chinese market by US movie companies – challenges of ideology, distribution and culture: Crouching U.S. studios, hidden Chinese market [pdf]

If Hollywood is ever going to find its way through the cultural mists and mazes of China — or get some of those 1.3 billion butts into seats for the next “Shrek” or George Clooney picture or whatever it is Spielberg decides to make — it is going to have to figure out how to get money out of people like Al Yon.

Yon already loves Hollywood. Loves American movies — even adopted his first name back in high school English class in honor of Al Pacino. Loves American TV too. “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” “Friends,” “Sex and the City.” He’s seen every episode.

[…] And Yon should be Hollywood’s dream customer: a smart, young, urban guy in the world’s fastest-growing market, with a voracious appetite for just about anything the American pop culture machine throws out. ” ‘Desperate Housewives’ — I love it,” Yon says.

Problem is, Yon has never paid a dime to ogle Charlotte or snicker at the inside jokes with Jerry and Kramer. Never plans to. All that expensively produced American culture is being piped into his bedroom on the Internet, “shared” among Chinese consumers who swap digital files free. And Yon’s not some geek operating on the fringe. He’s the Chinese mainstream. He’s not even one of those consumers who get their Hollywood fix from buying pirated DVDs for a dollar.

“Why would I pay a dollar,” Yon asks, perplexed, “for something that is free?”