Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Nearest Chinatown Where I USED To Shop For Movies

To set the scene my nearest Chinatown is approximately 40 to 45 miles away, compounding this is neither my wife or I drive. As a result I have to take a bus followed by a train to reach it, the cost of which is equivalent buying two or three blu rays before any shopping is done.

Having read about and enjoyed Kingwho?'s regular jaunts into his local Chinatown and this post from OCD in mind I wanted to try something similar, so off we went on Monday, I got my little camcorder ready to shoot some videos, and some cash to hopefully buy some HK dvd treasures, but having not been for a long time I wasn't quite sure what to expect...

Chinatown shopping haul

When I say I haven't been for a long time, I'm talking a good ten years or so. I was surprised to find that the four or five places that used to sell movies are all still open, however with the exception of one of them they have all but given up as far as vcds and dvds are concerned. The one place that still had new releases only stocked them on vcd, the other shops either had stopped altogether or were just selling off old stock, with nothing worth picking up at all. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, I didn't even bother shooting any video or photos, whats the point if there is nothing there to show?

Chinatown arch this is from the web it was pissing it down when I was there!

Rewind ten years, the shops here were always expensive with dvds costing around £25 each, and vcds between £8 and £12, I didn't mind this so much then, as the internet prices around this time were pretty high anyway and it was nice to go rummaging through the titles looking for gems. The nearest equivalent for me these days is trawling ebay and it gives nothing like the same feeling. I remember picking up The Mission and Running out of time on dvd on the same day and being feeling like an over excited child on the way home, even with my pocket £50 lighter.

Now the irony of this post is not lost on me, I haven't been for ten years and I'm whining about them stopping selling movies, WTF?

Without turning this into an economics post, as we all know, in the last ten years many changes have taken place within the entertainment marketplace. The most obvious ones being aggressive competition from internet pricing for physical media, and competition from downloading, both legally and (more realistically) illegally. In addition to these factors are high quality bootlegs available at a fraction of the price of a genuine copy. When all this is taken into account its not that surprising that legit movies may no longer be worth the shelf space they take up. In Manchester's Chinatown it has reached this point, it would be a real shame if this was the case everywhere. I have been to Toronto's Chinatown on four occasions between 2000 and 2008 and on each visit fewer places had legit discs, while more were selling bootlegs. In Hong Kong its a similar story, in 1998 on my first visit compared to my last visit in 2008, many more places were selling movies, and on each visit in between fewer shops and stalls remained.

Unfortunately the vcds, dvds and blu rays I love to search through are becoming a thing of the past, physical media is devalued to such a point that your average punter is just not buying anymore, and when that happens the writing is on the wall, companies stop releasing the titles we want to see.

I'm not ready to move over to movie downloading yet, the internet infrastructure in the UK is just not there to support it, at least not in the quality that I'm looking for, the so called HD streams I've seen look hopeless and will for a long time I suspect. I love my vcds, laserdiscs, dvds and blu rays and I want to be able to still shop for them. As I said I realise that I'm part of the problem for buying from the internet, but I suspect that my continued custom wouldn't have made any difference anyway, normal people don't care about this kind of crap!

The intention of this post was to share the modest but fun shopping options available to a Hong Kong cinema fan in the north of England, but its turned into something else entirely. I'm pretty envious of anyone who has the option to visit a local shop to buy their HK goodies, rather than having to use the internet.

Fingers crossed that the shops stay open and it stays that way for a long time to come! I'd be interested to hear how things are where you are and if you are keeping your local movie vendor in business!


YTSL said...

Since moving to Hong Kong, my viewing on a big screen vs home video ratio has moved way in favor of the big screen. So I have to say that I have contributed to a lessening of patronage for Hong Kong video stores (as I used to leave Hong Kong after twice yearly visits to it with a haul of around 30 DVDs or so per trip).

But even before I stopped patronising video stores in a big way, had noticed the range of available Hong Kong movie DVDs having -- if not dried up completely, then lessened somewhat. More and more, it seems, we only get DVDs of new movies and remastered versions of older works... Thing is, much as I love, say, "Swordsman II", I don't want 5 different versions of it and, instead, would prefer new DVDs (with English subs) of many an older Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia movie that has yet to make it out on DVD -- e.g., "Flag of Honour", "The (Secret Love of the) Peach Blossom Land", "Women Reporter", "The Woman Soldier", "The Switch", "Magnificent 72", etc., etc., etc.!

Kingwho? said...

Great post! It's such a shame, isn't it? I also live a considerable ways away from NYC Chinatown but I do get there a few times a year. However, there are only about 3 legit shops left and bootlegs are even taking over their shelves as well. There are a bunch of other shops in C-town but they deal exclusively in bootlegs.

As a collector, I'm with you onthe feeling and joy of having physical media. And by my last blog post, you can tell I get just as giddy as you when I find gems in legit formats. Turning to downloading is entirely new to me and I've only been doing so for less than a year. The films I am looking to discover seem to be nowhere in sight and often OOP. So, I figured, why torture myself? I want to see a film that is unavailable legitimately, so why not just watch it where it is available? It was a tough, tough truth to swallow. And, like I mentioned to you once before, I only download OOP or hard to find films, NEVER new or easily available titles. Not that that makes me a better person. It's still downloading. I will gladly plunk down cash for easy to find titles. And, the off chance I actually do finally find an OOP or hard to find title, I will snatch it up as soon as possible, having previously downloaded it or not.

It's an interesting topic, AHND. I know you are kinda interested in specs and pristine prints and you most likely won't find clean product in a download. That being said, if downloading were the ONLY legitimate way for you too see an OOP film, would you do it?

A. said...

My local Chinatown stop was pretty essential in getting me a copy of Bullet in the Head years ago so I do thank them! I used to live pretty close to them but outside going for bubble tea dates with my fiancée, the films they stock are far to expensive for my tastes. They do stock blu-rays now however so I am curious. The shopkeep is always trying to sell me on the fact that here DVD players have karaoke components. Uhh...not my bag!

As for KingWho?'s question, I'm going to go by what Tarantino says for these matters: If there is no way to see a film you want, than bootleg it. That's how he saw all his old Shaw Brothers flicks. I'd agree for the most part as I can't justify paying outrageous e-bay prices for some films. Regardless on one's view of Tarantino, I agree with him.

A hero never dies said...

YTSL, That is the way films are meant to be seen, and as you are in HK with the resources of the HKFA and cool cinemas like the Broadway cinematheque, I think I would be the same. Although having said that I can't resist the shiny silver discs!

I like the remasters (as long as they are done well) but the more I learn from all you guys, the more I am missing the OOP titles, that could be released and in many cases we may not ever see again. Again though I am a real sucker and have multiple copies of more movies than I really should admit to for fear of being taken away, I've been thinking about posting about this "illness" It may help me!

Kingwho? Its not ideal Kingwho? but I'm no saint when it comes to this murky area, and perhaps somewhat naively I have purchased things that I didn't even like because I had downloaded a version when they weren't available. I do prefer not to though if it can be helped.
You're right, I do like the best versions available, and I do consider it to be a bit of a personal nightmare that I have so many copies of the same films as I mentioned above. This comes from having an awesome home theatre set up, I'm not remotely cashed up, but I figured its what I love so I'm going to spend the money on getting a really good set up. Its all complete now, so now spare cash goes only on movies,yay! I am trying as I mentioned to you before to be less hung up on this and even dug out my old more forgiving tv for watching vcds on, as I can't watch them otherwise and it does help. You've been a positive influence in that way Kingwho? I'm not sure about in others though!

A. Don't give me that, I'm sure you've got a stash of Andy Lau karaoke vcds or maybe Twins ones, that you bust out on a weekend,No?
So does that mean you are an online shopper through and through?

A. said...

Ha! I'll stick with Guitar Wolf if I want my Asian music fix. I do buy a good amount of items online but I find myself usually looking for good deals in bargain bins around town. It's more fun for me, and I've recently found that blu-rays are quite cheap this way too.

This post has influenced me to make my own about the Chinatown area in Ottawa. I'll write one up this weekend maybe.

A hero never dies said...

Look forward to reading that A. love stuff like that.

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