Watching Movies in China

From ChinaExpat.Wiki
Watching Movies in China

China is one of the few countries in the world, along with Crimea, North Korea, or Syria, where Netflix does not offer its services[1]. Most people in China need to consume their films through China's film import quota (分账片) of only 34 foreign films per year. This number can be expanded slightly by the Chinese authorities through the use of the special cultural exchange channel[2] and also through the direct buyout of the film's rights by Chinese companies (买断片/批片) which is thought to have a separate unofficial quota[3]

China reedits, restricts, and bans numerous films from the Chinese market for a variety of political and culturally sensitive reasons[4].

Going to the Cinema in China[edit | edit source]

Watching movies is a great way to learn a language and many Chinese cinemas often screen Chinese language movies with English subtitles. Given that most people in China do not require subtitles, they often do not advertise subtitle availability and require patrons to ask about it when buying a ticket in order to find out.

If you are interested in a film in a language you speak, there are lots of great options for booking movies, though in most places around China you will have trouble booking tickets through a non-Chinese language interface.

One of the most convenient methods for checking movie times and booking seats is to use WeChat. The app allows users to book movie tickets through the ‘Pay’ section under the ‘Event tickets’ subheading. The interface is all in Chinese for booking tickets, but it is straightforward enough that a non-Chinese speaker could figure it out without too much trouble. Conveniently, the app recognizes your current location and allows users to browse all the movies showing at nearby cinemas in one location.

Buying Event Tickets in WeChat Pay

Chinese cinemas mostly are of a similar comfort standard to other cinemas around the world, though it is still common for people to use their phones to send messages, take photos and make phone calls during the showing, which obviously detracts from the experience.

Apple TV[edit | edit source]

Apple TV Plus logo

One of the easiest ways to consume any media you like in China is by using Apple TV. Apple has a wide selection of shows which it allows people to watch based on the country of registration of the user's Apple ID. This means that if you have an Apple ID from outside of China, your account will behave exactly as it does in the country of registration. Apple TV has a subscription service and allows people to pay per film when people consume media outside of the subscription.

The nice thing about this option is that it doesn't require a VPN in order to jump the Great Firewall of China and most expat Apple users will already have an Apple ID registered in their home country. Apple does not offer its television and movie streaming services in China, so registering a local Chinese Apple ID to access their platform will not result in being able to view their programming.

It is important to note that dedicated Apple TV devices do not natively support VPNs, which means that while Apple's own programming may work seamlessly in China, much of the non-Apple content typically available through an Apple TV is not. YouTube and region-locked content, such as Hulu, HBO, and many sports channels, will not work without linking the Apple TV to a VPN service via a proxy.

Chinese Online Streaming Services[edit | edit source]

Like the rest of the world, China has rapidly made the move from terrestrial, over the air and cable TV to free and paid online streaming platforms. These have been particularly successful in China and host a decent variety of legally syndicated overseas programming. All of these Chinese platforms operate exclusively in Chinese, but through the use of browser translation add-ins, they are generally easy enough to navigate.

Tencent TV 腾讯视频[edit | edit source]

Tencent Video

Movies - (Free, Subscription & Paid)

Owned by the internet mega-company Tencent[5], also the owner of WeChat and QQ, the Tencent online streaming platform has the deep pockets necessary to lock up many of the world's biggest action blockbusters for the China market. The website allows users to filter by country, year, and a number of other criteria to narrow down the films to their preferences. The site is all in Chinese, so a browser that can translate web pages will make things easier if you don't speak Chinese.

Some examples of films available on the platform are Zack Snyder's Justice League, Raya and The Last Dragon, Dolittle and Tenet

Subscriptions as of 5 October 2021
Period Subscription Non-recurring
Monthly RMB 15.00 for the first month, then RMB 20.00 per month RMB 20.00
Quarterly (3 months) RMB 45.00 for the first quarter, then RMB 58.00 per quarter
Annual (12 months) RMB 168.00 for the first year, then RMB 218.00 per year

Many premium movies are charged individually and not included in the subscription packages.

iQiyi 爱奇艺[edit | edit source]

iQiyi logo

Movies - (Free, Subscription & Paid)

iQiyi is one of the dominant video platforms in China and syndicates a lot of overseas content for the Chinese market. As with most of these platforms, iQiyi's main focus is on providing high-quality Chinese language content to their customers, but they have a good selection of international movies and TV series for expats to enjoy. The site will introduce a range of movies on its main page, but also allows for users to search for movies by year, country, and genre.

As well as its platform in China, iQiyi also operates an international version of its website in English that is only available outside of China and only shows Chinese language content. If you connect to iQiyi using a VPN with a connection endpoint outside of China, the website will automatically redirect you to their international site where their international content licensed for China will be unavailable. To ensure that you are able to access their content in China, any overseas VPNs, proxies, or other rerouting systems need to be turned off.

Some examples of movies available on the website are Jurassic World, The Purge: Anarchy, The Conjuring and Wonder Woman 1984.

Subscriptions as of 5 October 2021
Period Subscription Non-recurring
Monthly RMB 19.00 per month RMB 25.00
Quarterly (3 months ) RMB 58.00 per quarter RMB 68.00
Semiannually (6 months) N/A RMB 108.00
Annual (12 months) RMB 218.00 per year RMB 248.00

Many premium movies are charged individually and not included in the subscription packages. iQiyi subscriptions are available for free as a part of many other subscriptions such as mobile phone packages and VIP shopping card packages.

Youku 优酷[edit | edit source]

Youku Logo

Movies - (Free, Subscription & Paid)

Youku I one of the oldest platforms in China's streaming video industry that in its early days operated more similarly to YouTube than it does today. While people can still post and share their own videos on YouKu, the platform is now far more synonymous with mainstream movies, TV shows, and other online entertainment. The site has a decent selection of streaming movies from around the world that can be searched by origin, year of release, and genre.

Some examples of the movies available on Youku are 21 Bridges, Hobbs and Shaw, and Hacksaw Ridge

    • Fee (The prices are from 2021, they definitely will change in the future)
    1. If you are a new user, subscribe and pay automatically each month for 6RMB/month.
    2. 6 months package is 108RMB (18RMB/month).
    3. Annual fee is 198RMB (16.5RMB/month).
Subscriptions as of 5 October 2021
Period Subscription
Monthly RMB 49.00 per month (RMB 9.9 for new members)
Quarterly (3 months) RMB 79.00 per quarter
Annual (12 months) RMB 239.00 per year

Youku's service is a mix of free, paid, and subscription movies and television shows. Subscriptions do not allow users to access all of the content on their website, but they often allow users to access additional discounts on the paid content.

Websites of Popular Public TV channels[edit | edit source]

  • CCTV 央视网 - CCTV is the national public broadcaster in China and plays a wide range of movies on demand and through their live streams.
  • Zhejiang TV 浙江卫视 - Chinese language public TV living streaming and on-demand.
  • Hunan TV 湖南卫视 - Chinese language public TV living streaming and on-demand. Also known as Mango TV.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Where is Netflix available?, Netflix, Accessed 2 Oct 2021
  2. Hollywood's China dreams get tangled in trade talks, Reuters, 20 May 2018
  3. Foreign Films in China: How Does It Work?, China Film Insider, 2 March 2017
  4. Film censorship in China, Wikipedia, Accessed on 3 Oct 2021
  5. Tecent, Wikipedia, Accessed on 3 Oct 2021