Thursday, August 17, 2017

Show may be over for local-language video rental shops

Ma Hnin Hnin Khain is like many cinephiles in that she formerly visited her local video rental shop every day to borrow a movie for the evening’s viewing.

Video rental shops are a tough proposition in most markets around the world these days. Photo: Naing Win TunVideo rental shops are a tough proposition in most markets around the world these days. Photo: Naing Win Tun

But improved television shows, particularly Channel 7’s Korean movies, mean Ma Hnin Hnin Khain finds she has begun spending less of her income at the local rental shop.

The drop in customers is being keenly felt by video rental shops, which purchase films and then rent them out for one night at a cost of K200 or K300 a piece. Though mainstays for connoisseurs of local cinema, their days may be numbered as television and Korean dramas take hold, and cheap pirated foreign films are readily available.

It’s tough to keep customers interested in locally made movies, when foreign productions with larger budgets and international stars fill up the nightly television screen, said the owner of Sat Wai movie rental shop in Thingyangyun township.

“Some people in the suburbs still watch Myanmar films, but viewers are increasingly turning to television, not renting videos,” said the owner. “There are only a few people left renting movies.”

The owner said she had opened her shop years ago because her house was centrally located, and films were a hot commodity.

But technology has caught up, and cheap foreign films are increasingly undercutting the Myanmar movie rental business, said the owner of Grand rental shop in North Okkalapa.

“We’ve been open for 12 years and it’s the main business for my family – and it’s declined by half,” the owner said. “We’ll have to find another business to survive.”

Myanmar productions are heavily local, with different areas latching on to different actors and actresses, said U Khin Htay from Zabutalu production. Some actors are popular in rural areas, while other actresses are big in the cities.

Still, the price-sensitive rural areas have almost entirely abandoned legitimate films, forcing the firm to increasingly depend on Mandalay and Yangon for revenue.

U Khin Htay said a strong law on copyright and an improved distribution system are important to developing the local film industry, but domestic studios must also improve their product.

Although cheap, mass-produced foreign films are commonly pirated and sold, Myanmar films are somewhat less susceptible as they must also be pirated locally. However, some shops do pirate local movies on a small-scale level.

The local aspect to Myanmar films is the lifeline for the industry. U Win Min Aung is like many who remain renters – he watches Myanmar movies because he has an easier time understanding the culture and figuring out if the film will be worthwhile.

“I like Myanmar movies because it’s easier for me to tell if they’re going to be good or not,” he said.

Other would-be renters say its tough to find films in the downtown area. Most youth have switched to foreign films, said Ma Suthandar, who lives in Tarmwe township.

Rental shop owners say there is little they can do to prevent the slide. The owner of Sat Wai rental shop said she tries to adjust her stock to generate more custom. Lately she has been buying more funny movies and less action and ghost movies.

“If the actor is not famous and new, people don’t want to watch the film,” she said.