How to thrive among pirates – how films get made in India, China and Nigeria

A fascinating piece from Kevin Kelly on how the Chinese film industry continues to produce films when everything they do seems to be pirated.

The three largest film industries in the world are India, Nigeria and China (measured in titles produced).

Nigeria makes 2,000 films a year, India about 1,000 a year and China around 500. Together they produce four times as many films per year as Hollywood. Yet each of these countries has a huge copyright piracy industry. So how do post-copyright economics work? How do film makers in these countries keep producing more movies than Hollywood with no copyright protection for their efforts?

Some of Kevin’s answers are familiar to Hollywood producers – films are good vehicle for money laundering, tax-avoidance, etc. Some less so – aircon in cinemas is an important part of the mix.

So in a market where legitimate copies are very similar in price to the illegitimate ones – indeed they are often produced by the same people – there is almost no money to be made from content. The live experience is everything.

What Kelly doesn’t mention is that of course Hollywood knows this – the huge investment in 3D, and in some places 4D, is for exactly this reason. 3D has been in cinemas since the 1920s, but it’s only now, when faced by the threat of piracy, that Hollywood has truly embraced it, because you can’t pirate the live experience.

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