China film-goer sues over cinema ads

20 minutes of ads before 'Aftershock' prove too much

BEIJING – Twenty minutes of on-screen advertising ahead of the Chinese boxoffice hit “Aftershock,” so irked one ticket-buyer that she decided to sue the cinema and the film’s distributor, Huayi Brothers Media, for wasting her time.
Moviegoer Chen Xiaomei filed a suit alleging the plaintiffs had violated her freedom of choice, the official Xinhua News Agency reported late Tuesday, citing a statement from the People's Court of Yanta District in Xian, the capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.
Chen’s lawsuit is the first publicized case of its kind at a time when Chinese consumers’ demand for choice and their power to vote with their wallets are both on the rise.
Chen saw the record-setting earthquake drama by director Feng Xiaogang twice at the Xian Polybona International Cinema and was surprised by the ads, which came without warning, Xinhua said.
For wasting her time, Chen is asking Polybona and Huayi to apologize in writing and to refund her ticket price of 35 yuan ($5.16), pay another 35 yuan in compensation and a final 1 yuan ($0.15) for “emotional damages.”
Chen is not alone among Chinese consumers to complain about increased commercialization in movies, long a medium for propaganda. Product placement, a practice pioneered in China by Feng and Huayi, is also on the rise.
For now, however, Chen appears to be in the minority. Chinese ticket sales, up more than 80% from Jan. to June, show a newfound tolerance for the ads.
"Aftershock," which recounts the 1976 Tangshan Earthquake, in which 240,000 people were killed, is the first non-English film shot in Imax.
Since its opening on July 22 – the biggest ever for a Chinese film -- “Aftershock” has grossed a record 650 million yuan to become the most successful homegrown film ever in China.
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