Saturday, May 3, 2008

Chocolate out on DVD in Thailand, coming to theaters in Singapore

The DVD of Chocolate is out in Thailand. A two-disc special edition was just released this week after a single-disc DVD and VCD release a week or two ago.

There are no English subtitles. But, I am leaning toward the notion they are not really necessary for this film. After the first half hour or so, there is little need for dialogue as Jeeja gets wound up and moves from one setpiece to the next, leaving scores of injured men in her wake. The sound of pain and suffering is universal. And anyway, some of the dialogue is in English.

The heavy security deployed during the film's theatrical run in Thailand some Bangkok cinemas is paying off. Sahamongkol's strategy for its high-profile films is to employ its own detail of frowning, uptight, black-shirted security guards. After you pass through a metal detector and have your bags given a cursory glance by the multiplex's own staff, when you reach the doors of the cinema, Sahamongkol's own crew is there to check your ticket and give a bag a more thorough look. Just try to smile or crack a joke with these guys. I dare you. They are all business, and are very focused. Some places even had another metal detector.

When Tom Yum Goong was released in Thailand in 2005, it wasn't long after that bootleg discs of the film began appearing on the streets. I haven't seen that this time around for Chocolate -- oh sure, there's probably still some piracy going on, it's just not as overt as before.

Not long after the film leaves cinemas, the DVDs and VCDs are released, and in Thailand the prices are kept relatively low. At the 7-Eleven in my office building, the VCD of Chocolate is 99 baht -- about US$3. It's a tempting impulse buy, right there at the cash register. The initial single-disc DVD was retailing at Mangpong for 169 baht -- not much more, less even in some cases -- than the price of admission to the movie. Now the two-disc special edition is out already, and it's going for around 350 baht. I have been tempted to pick up the VCD, though the chapters of the DVD do make it handier to hit the highlights.

Prices are considerably higher if you mail-order Chocolate from such places as eThaiCD or HK Flix, because they have to pay to import the discs. And you still don't get subtitles, but if you want what you want and you want it now, well there you go.

Chocolate has been playing in Hong Kong, where it opened at No. 2, according to Box Office Mojo. And next week, it opens in Singapore. In both these territories, it is entirely possible that an English-subtitled DVD might not be far behind. But maybe not.

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  1. WiseKwai
    I would totally disagree with your notion that there was not many bootleg copies of Chocolate going about .

    I would guess about 2 weeks after it opened , a VCD was openly on sale in the markets of Pattaya .

    It was only on VCD and not DVD , a filmed in the cinema job , with no english subtitles .

    Also I watched Chocolate in the Avenue cinema ,Pattaya , and there was none of the security you write about.

    Best Regards

  2. Thanks for the news from Pattaya, Chang Fai. Seems they are only making a big show of security in the capital.

  3. Of course there are bootlegs, but I think the point still stands: quick theater-to-shelf turnaround and low prices prevent piracy by (news flash, MPAA) offering a better alternative.

    The show of security at the theaters here is just that--a show. Camcording is a completely exaggerated threat to the film industry. The quality is so awful that the people who buy them are all either (a) suckers who don't know what they're getting, and (b) fanboys who can't wait until it's released legitimately. And the second group is going to acquire it again as soon as the real thing comes out, whether legitimately or illegitimately.

    This is the mistake the MPAA makes: by keeping the turnaround so long (I think 4-6 months is typical), they give ample time for DVD screeners or pre-release retail DVDs to leak online.

    Compare that with Thailand, where as Wisekwai mentions, the legitimate discs are available for 99-169 baht within a month or so of the film's theatrical run. The pirated DVDs so common in Thailand are almost exclusively foreign (i.e. Hollywood) films, usually around 100 baht apiece.

    Seems clear, then, why you only see the pirated camcorder versions of Thai movies (despite Thais most likely being bigger consumers of bootleg DVDs than foreigners, due to sheer numbers). It's not worth the money for pirates to bootleg the retail DVDs, because they're already sold so cheap legitimately. The pirates have nothing to offer that beats the legit goods.

    Honestly, you'd think the MPAA would have figured this out by now...

  4. Bit-torrent rips of the DVD are starting to make the rounds. I don't know how the studios are going to combat that, as viewers increasingly turn to downloads for their movie fix. They've tried copy protection, but it has been pretty easily hacked.

    As hard-drives become bigger and prices come down, storing movies as computer files will become more common.

    The decision to let iTunes sell movie downloads on the same day and date as DVD releases heralds a new trend.

    The studios will have to offer something extra with the downloads to make them attractive - free special features, PDF booklets - something, anything to entice downloaders. Oh, and competitive pricing will help, too.

    I wonder if there's a legal download channel yet for Thai films?

    I think in the next five to 10 years, maybe even sooner, home viewing and movie distribution will be radically changed.

  5. BitTorrent is another example of where legit goods could still win if only the legit goods could compete with the pirate goods in quality and speed of availability.

    iTunes is a good example of how to do it right (especially now that DRM is going the way of the dodo--but it's still on their videos). But releasing it on the same day as the DVD doesn't shorten the multi-month gap between theater and home viewing.

    It's the movie theater owners making a big fuss that prevents it--the MPAA is still too dense to realize what they actually sell. In the theater, they sell a social experience. On DVD and download, the sell convenient home viewing on one's own schedule. The one needn't be killed by the other. If movie theaters would work to improve the moviegoing experience, people would continue to go in greater numbers. I worked at movie theaters in high school and college, and there's a lot you can do. Get creative with the menu, fork for newer seats, upgrade to digital surround sound, et cetera. Know what your product is--it's not just "watching a movie". It's "watching a movie in the theater". If your experience can't beat a decent home theater, you're screwed.

    For years people have been talking about "movie theaters of the future," how they would offer the DVD for sale in the lobby. You would get a special code on the back of your movie ticket that would let you access film extras online (interviews, ring tones, what have you). There are plenty of ways to add incentives to the movie theater experience.

    It's their paralyzing fear of change that kills them. If the extras on a DVD are good, people will gladly buy it instead of download it. This is still a shortcoming of iTunes and company, as you say. This whole "download rental" idea from iTunes is a doomed concept, because not only are you not getting any extras, you're falsely limiting the viewing window for your customer--there's no physical product to return to the video store, so why pretend like there is by making the download "expire" within a certain number of days?

    My guess is that there won't be any popular download offering in Thailand until Apple extends its iTunes store to the country. The e-commerce here is still quite bad overall even for physical goods (I'd kill for Amazon Thailand). So it may be awhile before we see a successful video (or even music) download site. Though it's a opportunity they're blowing, since the illegitimate ones get ever bigger and more well known. This is true for the MPAA/RIAA, too. In places like Thailand, they have a chance to get people hooked on legit downloads before everyone becomes aware of BitTorrent and gets used to the convenience (and price!) of that. But they're losing the battle through inaction with every passing day...

  6. I across an article that addresses the Apple movie downloads issue here.

    The studios are living in the same dreamworld as the record companies - slow to adapt to new, rapidly changing technology.

    The iTunes deal isn't all that enticing. $16 and you can't even burn the file to DVD. It's still crippled with DRM.

    No so with a torrent file.

    There's one company, Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment, which Steven Soderbergh is also in involved in. They release Soderbergh's movies in theaters (they own the awesome Landmark chain), on DVD and on TV on the same day and date. Presumably, digital downloads will be part of the mix for future releases.

    If they did that with Iron Man, I'd be watching that movie right now at home -- after I'd experienced it in the theater. But no, I have to wait six months or a year before I can have an Iron Man DVD, or download it legally. It'll take another marketing campaign to fan my interest by then.


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