Movie piracy in China has surged because of the coronavirus outbreak and experts say it could forecast a global trend

contagion

Warner Bros.

Jude Law in "Contagion"

  • Average daily visits to film piracy sites in China grew by 89% from January 18 to January 26, the day after the Chinese New Year, which is typically the region's busiest moviegoing time, according to piracy data firm Muso.
  • China's 70,000 movie theaters closed in January because of the coronavirus.
  • Daily visits to piracy streaming sites also grew by more than 12% in China from January to February.
  • Muso tracked 11.2 billion visits to piracy sites globally in February and said China is an indicator the global number could rise.
  • Certain movies have seen big increases in piracy visits in China, including the 2011 pandemic movie, "Contagion," and this year's Oscar best-picture winner, "Parasite."
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As movie theaters across the world shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, experts forecast that film piracy will continue to rise, with China being the bellwether.

China's 70,000 theaters shut down in January amid coronavirus concerns during the weekend of the Chinese New Year, which is typically the country's busiest moviegoing time. Piracy data company Muso released a report on Wednesday that shows how piracy has already increased in the region because of the closures.Advertisement

Visits to film piracy sites grew by 89% from January 18 to January 26, the day after the Chinese New Year, according to Muso. The company saw an overall 12.21% increase in average daily visits to piracy sites in China from January to February.

Certain movies have seen a rise in piracy in China, according to Muso, such as 2011's "Contagion" and this year's Oscar best-picture winner, "Parasite." The former saw a 151.97% increase in piracy streaming visits from January to February and the latter saw a 240.04% increase.

"Contagion," about a pandemic, has also surged up the iTunes charts and was the platform's ninth most popular movie on Wednesday. It's just one of several movies and TV shows about deadly viruses that have suddenly gained in popularity. The movie "Outbreak" and the docuseries "Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak" recently landed on Netflix's daily top 10 lists of its most popular titles.
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Muso tracked 11.2 billion visits to piracy sites globally in February and said that if China is an indication, this number will rise.

China's box office was down by nearly $2 billion in the first two months of the year compared to the same time last year. Just as theaters in the region were starting to reopen, China's Film Bureau ordered them to close again last week. Theaters in the UK and Italy have also shut down amid nationwide lockdowns. Most in the US have closed as Hollywood studios delay movie releases and the box office grinds to a halt. Studios have released new movies that were recently in theaters, such as Sony's "Bloodshot" and Universal's "The Invisible Man," to premium video-on-demand services. The movies, which viewers can usually rent or buy for $20 each, have been popular on services like iTunes and Fandango Now.Advertisement

But experts see this as a short-term solution to the current situation given that studios are committed to movie theaters and audiences can stream other movies at no extra cost (beyond the monthly subscription fee) on services like Netflix and HBO Now.

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