Friday, June 21, 2013

Let's go the movies...China style

Today in class we had a short discussion about movie theaters in China.  Going to the movies in China is very different from going to the movies in the States.  I've never really thought about all the differences until today when my teacher (who taught in Singapore for awhile) was sharing his frustrations about movie theaters in China.  Here's a quick look at what you can expect if you choose to go to a movie in China.

Photo credit: Wang Zhao/Getty Images
1)  It is not cheaper.  Some things in China are cheaper, movies are not.  In fact, most of the time they are more expensive (up to $15 per person). 
2)  In the words of my teacher, "the hardware (seats, screen, etc) are excellent, the software (sound, video quality) not so much."
3)  Silencing your cell phone is not expected.  In fact, most Chinese will answer their cell phones in the movie theater.  And text.  And take pictures (or video).  We actually had a Chinese person take a picture of us (a row of foreigners) sitting next to him - he used flash and everything.  Very smooth.  In general, the cultural expectation of when and where to answer your cell phone is very different.  It is not considered rude to answer your cell phone or have it ring loudly during a movie (or in class). 
4)  There aren't many rules.  Feet on the chairs, shoes off the feet...I'm being serious.  
5)  Assigned seats.  This is also true in Thailand.  When you buy the ticket, you are assigned a seat (that you get to pick).  There isn't a "rule" to sit in your exact assigned seat, but most of the time you do or sit close to where you have your ticket.  It depends how full the theater is (the more full, the more people sit in their assigned seat). 
6)  Sweet popcorn.  Chinese love sweet popcorn.  I have not figured this one out.  
7)  No previews.  Instead it's commercials or sometimes they just get right to the movie.  It's best not to be late.
8)  Late arrivals.  My teacher shared this frustration, I have not experienced it personally.  He said many Chinese will show up 30 minutes late to the movie.  Again, I don't know why, but apparently it is often enough to cause my teacher frustration.
And lastly...
9)  Talking.  Just like the cell phone, talking is permitted in Chinese movie theaters.  It would actually be rude (on most counts) for someone to "shush" someone else.  I'm still trying to understand this one.  I think in obnoxious situations you could ask someone to be quiet, but for the most part talking during a movie with your friends is very acceptable.  Lots of chatter at the theater.

The market for movies in China is huge.  More and more foreign companies want to make sure they get in on the Chinese market.  Here's an interesting article about Iron Man 3 and what Marvel Entertainment did to make sure they got a piece of the pie.

On side note, we did go and see Iron Man 3 here and the parts they added just for China were kind of annoying (partly because they didn't translate them and partly because I had read about it ahead of time and thought it was distasteful).