L.A. Times Scans China’s $6 Billion Pirated DVDs Industry

Los Angeles Times reporter John Horn and Beijing-based colleague Dan Levin offer a highly entertaining and deeply sobering overview of the massive transacting of illegal DVDs in China. What’s most amazing is that even though titles like The Social Network can be had for as little as $1.22, annual pirated DVD sales in the country are estimated to total $6 billion. Adjusted for standard Hollywood admissions math, that’s more like $30 billion!

Right off the bat, the article frames the problem with a killer quote from a 26-year-old female PR professional, who probably would do the right, legal thing, if only she could. “Legal DVDs are like democracy — they don’t exist in China,” she says.

There’s also this rather astounding factoid: according to Levin and Horn, some bootleg DVDs have “Extras” that are better than those found on legitimate studio discs. There’s a whole new problem for Hollywood; the idea of a consumer in a faraway land opting for a pirated disc because of superior add-ons.

There are many more cash register killing tidbits in the piece: nine out of ten DVDs purchased in censor-happy China are pirated, and leading pirate brands are experimenting with watermarks so as to differentiate their product from lesser known illegal purveyors. Crazy.

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.