Film industry hurt as movie review videos call ‘cut’

By Long Nguyen, Kieu Anh   January 2, 2021 | 04:29 pm PT
A new trend, ‘review videos’ that recap movie plots and highlights, is hurting the film industry’s bottom line with their influence on cinema goers.

"Somebody told me that a lot of viewers are interested in this movie, they have watched it many times on the TV and the internet, let us see why this movie is able to capture their interest, " says a woman introducing her review video for "Downsizing", a 2017 American science fiction-drama directed by Alexander Payne.

The nine-minute video shows footage from the movie and the woman reveals all of its storyline and major events. Hundreds of viewers praise the video for letting them know more the movie and its story without spending hours in the cinema house.

The video, garnering more than 541,000 views on YouTube, is just one of many review videos from a variety of pages and channels to be found on social media.

A recap video on YouTube thats had 567,000 views in a week. Photo by VnExpress/Long Nguyen.

A recap video on YouTube that's had 567,000 views in a week. Photo by VnExpress/Long Nguyen.

Using footage from movies and revealing all its secrets and thrills, such videos are playing spoilspor. They can reduce or kill motivation to watch the movie on the large screen.

Over the past few months, the review videos have become an unprecedented social media phenomenon in Vietnam.

On YouTube, channels like "Review Phim Chat 97," "Anh Dau Bo Review Phim," "Tho Review Phim," "Ong Bat Phim," "Mot Phim Review" and "Quan Review Phim" have attracted millions of views.

In less than 10 minutes, the recap videos with clips and background music, tells many viewers what they want to know. They find this interesting and time saving, and therefore, the videos have gained in popularity, with many gathering over 100,000 views in a matter of hours.

"I can watch ten movies in an hour and discuss with my friends, this is good, given my busy life in the urban rat race," said a white-collar worker in Hanoi.

However, these videos have their critics as well, who say they are typically of low quality and the pirated content should not be popularized.

Most of the recap videos are made from low definition ripped versions of movies, cut out movie shots, commentary with plot and spoilers. Sometimes, they present the movie with its original concept completely changed.

Duong Minh, a movie reviewer in Hanoi, said that such videos, badly cut and edited, are accompanied by personal comments that cause causing misunderstandings among watchers.

"A movie lover like me will hate these videos, they are simply a summary with personal comments from the video maker," Minh said.

Ngo Thanh Phong, founder of the movie review page Cuong Phim, said movie lovers do not have to go to a cinema to learn more about the story of a movie, so this inflicts a huge loss on filmmakers."

Hanoi student Le Thanh Hoa said he had given up on the idea of going to the cinema to watch the South Korean movie "Pawn" after watching its recap video on Facebook

"What is the fun if I already know its plot and characters?" Hoa asked.

Saigon-based lawyer, Phan Vu Tuan, Vice President of Ho Chi Minh Intellectual Property Association, agreed with Phong. He said the videos seriously impact the commercial benefits of moviemakers wanting to taking their creations to giant screens or online platforms.

But even a bigger problem is that online viewers learning about a movie from another person can gain a wrong impression or understanding that is different from what the filmmakers want to convey, according to industry insiders.

"This will lead to viewers coming to distorted conclusions, " said Pham Thien Trang, a Saigon-based scriptwriter.

Film director Tuan Kiet agreed, adding that the content of these clips was not approved by scriptwriters or directors, so audiences may lose their interest in genuine productions.

The audience is also losing out. After watching the review videos and learning only the major plot, they are robbed of a full cinema experience.

"Filmmaking is a combination of many kinds of arts, from storytelling, cinematography, acting, lighting and visual effects. If audiences watch only those recap videos, they lose many things that only a true movie can bring," Tran Thanh Hien, an independent director and former instructor at documentary center Hanoi DocLab, told VnExpress International.

Many pirated websites put on false HD indicators to lure viewers. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy.

Many pirated websites put on false "HD" indicators to lure viewers. Photo by VnExpress/Luu Quy.

Totally illegal

Legal experts say that the recap videos using footage from movies and modifying their contents, is totally illegal.

"It is not different from filming a movie in a theater," said lawyer Phan Vu Tuan.

He said the recap videos hurt the integrity and copyright of movies, especially when the clip creators do not ask for permission from moviemakers.

Phimmoi, HDonline and Phimbathu are among 83 websites violating the copyright law, according to the Broadcasting and Electronic Information Authority. Most such sites use foreign domains and storage services, so managing them is not a simple task.

To deal with the situation, Nguyen Ha Yen, deputy head of the broadcasting body, said local authorities would coordinate their monitoring and follow up with internet operators.

The audience should be a direct part of the solution, aware that their actions directly the industry and content creators, experts say.

"The audience should say no to recap videos, then their creators will stop making them. Supply goes with demand," Hien said, adding he always knows pirated videos from movies will be here to stay for long.

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