Dagu road is dead, long live Dagu road. One of the amazing facets of navigating Chinese culture is tightrope walk of pirated dvd and cd shops. Dagu road might as well have been the Barbary coast for all of the operations running such shops on that stretch. Movie World, Even Better Than Movie World, and more all held sway over the denizens of Shanghai looking to catch the latest releases from around the World for what may as well have consisted of a song. Alas, Dagu road is no more. Oh, the road is still there along with all of it's legitimate businesses, but the dvd shops have vanished to make way for boutiques and pet stores.
This marks another chapter in the ongoing evolution of the Chinese in a world of global trade. Headlines were made just a few months back as Shanghai authorities cracked down on the dvd shops for selling pirated versions of films, some which had barely been in US movie theaters a matter of days. However, the "crackdown" resulted in even more ludicrous business practices as the sellers simply erected temporary walls behind which they placed all contraband material. Any patron simply had to look lost for the space of two seconds before being ushered back to the racks of illicit discs. The MPAA howled in disbelief, excoriating the Chinese government for not taking a harsher stance to the problem.
It was assumed by most, that the shops would operate in their "reduced" capacity until after the World Expo closed, then return to their normal operation. As I walked down Dagu road the other day, I couldn't quite believe my eyes as I passed what seemed to be familiar store fronts but no trace of the movie shops remained. I applaud the Shanghai authorities for making a statement, but it still rings a bit hollow. You can still buy pirated dvds and cds just about anywhere in Shanghai. Even the shops that closed on Dagu road have probably just moved elsewhere. If they are gone for good, then some other merchant will just fill the vacuum until a serious effort is made to shut down piracy on a wide scale.
Just like any crooked enterprise, there is a lot of money at stake. It remains to be seen where it comes from and who benefits the most but you can probably guess. When you factor in that most people frequenting these shops just don't care about where their money goes, it becomes a difficult task to rally popular opinion against them. Going to see a movie in Shanghai is an extremely expensive proposition and when you add in the fact that so much media is never allowed to reach legitimate outlets for distribution here, the market is ripe for plunder. Aaarrrrrrgh me heartys! The Chinese film industry suffers almost as much if not more as their ticket prices are sometimes 15 times the cost of buying a street dvd of the same film on opening day.
Dagu road seems more of a symbolic gesture than anything, but at least it is something for a city woking to be seen as an urban paradise.