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Vietnamese movie leak: A question of poor audience attitude or just a PR stunt?

Vietnamese movies have been leaked online before and bootleg recordings of films are not uncommon around the world, but the latest case just got a whole lot noisier following a police arrest and a producer angrily announcing plans to end her career.

“Co Ba Saigon” (The Tailor) premiered last Friday and did well over the weekend, telling the story of a family holding on to its ao dai legacy in Saigon in 1969.

The nostalgic movie had been highly anticipated but has been making headlines over the past couple of days for all the wrong reasons after a 19-year-old Vietnamese fan was arrested for live-streaming it on Monday afternoon.

The production team said that the 30-minute stream from a cinema in Vung Tau Town near Saigon attracted more than 5,000 views on Facebook and caused losses worth at least VND300 million ($13,200), given average ticket prices of VND60,000.

Producer Ngo Thanh Van has responded strongly to the infringement on Facebook.

“I feel powerless about young audiences’ attitudes now,” she said. “I am totally discouraged.”

“It’s hard to make a movie and find a place for it in the market, and now we have to deal with people like this,” she said.

“This might be the last movie I produce,” said Van, one of the most popular actresses in Vietnam who appeared in the Hollywood movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” (2016) and will play a role in the upcoming “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”.

Her heartfelt statement has received widespread support from the public, with calls for stiffer punishment for copyright infringements and for cinemas to improve their recording tracking technology.

Others, however, are not convinced, and say the incident could have been a publicity stunt, with the movie title featured in more than 30 headlines and relatively low box office losses.

Neither the movie’s production budget or weekend box office figures have been revealed, but as the only Vietnamese movie in theaters at present, it’s enjoying a considerable advantage.

Fines of between VND250 million and VND1 billion ($11,000-44,000) can be issued in Vietnam for copyright infringements, but that does not discourage bootleg recordings of movies.

The same thing happened with “Jailbait”, a rom-com about a schoolgirl and her scandalous love story which hit local theaters in April and went on to become one of highest-grossing movies in Vietnam, surpassing “Guardians of the Galaxy” during its first weekend.

“Kong: Skull Island”, the biggest release of all time in Vietnam, was also live-streamed several days after it was released in March, prompting the Motion Picture Association of America to ask Vietnam’s information ministry to step in.

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