Sunday, August 22, 2004

Getting those flicks from overseas

The Chicago Tribune has a story up today about how movie studios are having to change their marketing strategy with films from overseas due to DVD availability and piracy on the web.

Many film fans didn't want to wait until Friday to see Zhang Yimou's "Hero" -- and they didn't have to.
While Miramax pushed the acclaimed Chinese martial arts epic's release date back from month to month and year to year, it has been available on DVD in Asia for close to two years. Thanks to eBay and other online outlets, it's been available to U.S. consumers as well.
Ain't It Cool News Web site honcho Harry Knowles said he got a copy shortly before "Hero" was nominated for a best foreign-language film Oscar in early 2003. Frustrated by the repeated delays and eager to see the movie -- rightly touted as a more stylized follow-up of sorts to Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" -- I bought my copy from an eBay seller last year for less than $10.Miramax has actively fought the importation of "Hero" and other movies awaiting release that are already available on DVD overseas. Now the company can only hope that those imported "Hero" discs will serve a similar function as sneak previews by generating positive word of mouth.

I would have to agree. I've had a DVD from Taiwan of the amazing action film Ong Bak since March and there have been rips of the Thai DVD on Kazaa and other file sharing networks since last year. When "Crouching Tiger" was being promoted over here, but not yet released, a friend returned from a trip from Singapore with a VCD of the movie.

While Ong Bak won't be in American theatres until November, the movie is out there for anyone who wants it. Instead of suing to stop the films from hitting our shores prematurely, perhaps they should consider speeding up the release dates so fans won't have to wait so long for the films they want to see. I've screened Ong Bak for several friends and they can't wait to see it again on the big screen. That kind of word of mouth buzz would be invaluable in promoting great, but obscure foreign films that otherwise wouldn't see the light of day. And there are plenty of them out there.


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