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!