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Cinema culture in China and Australia: On popcorn, censorship and luxury

Trinity College Foundation Studies

Mon Dec 07 2015

Film cinema culture

IN a new country with vastly different languages and cultures, even a common pastime like going to the movie will not feel the same! Trinity College Foundation Studies students Yi Li Yang, Zixuan Yang, Ming Yin and Daisey Xu reflect on their experiences of cinema in China and Australia. 

A movie-goer eating popcorn in a cinema

Going to the cinema may be a common pastime around the world, but what we don’t often realise is that the experience could vary from country to country.

This is truly the case for Chinese students in Australia, and here are the top five differences we’ve observed:

What movie-goers chew on

The cinema here is strange! I never ate salty popcorn before, I miss sweet popcorn in my hometown.

While this may sound trivial, it’s one many international students from China (and other Asian countries) may identify with. Most of us associate the cinema with sweet popcorn – which we love – so imagine our surprise when discovering that the only popcorn available from the candy bar is of the savoury variety!

Entrances and exits 

I am sometimes confused by the entrance and exit. Why do people here can use the same doorway to go in and out?

In China, there are dedicated entrances and exits that movie-goers must use. This is not the case in Australia, and there’s little stopping patrons from sneaking into another theatre to catch a movie. It’s an honour system that most people seem to respect.

The lack of subtitles 

Did you ever notice there are no subtitles in films? Sometimes I buy movie tickets but I can’t understand what the movie is talking about!

Catching a movie can be challenging for students who aren’t so good in English. While it’s not a surprise that there are no subtitles to accompany films in English in an English-speaking country, it can be a huge discouragement for students often rely on subtitles back home.

Premium film screenings 

I had a fantastic experience when I watched a movie in a luxury cinema. I couldn’t believe I could order food and wines in a cinema!

Cinemas are one-size-fits-all in China, so imagine our surprise when we found out there were premium film screenings here in Australia, where you pay more for a luxury cinema experience which includes being able to order food and wine while you watch, complete with seats which recline!

Censorship, or the lack of it

Censorship is killing the arts.

Perhaps the biggest difference between film culture in China and Australia, and more generally, the west, is about censorship.

More than missing out on censored movie scenes, students are aware that they probably have missed watching films that are banned from showing in China altogether. Students definitely have access to more films here in Australia.

Attitudes towards film censorship, however, differ among Chinese students. While some students see censorship as stifling the arts scene in China, others are ambivalent, or have come to accept things as they are.

What are your experiences of cinema back home?

This story was produced by Media and Communication students at Trinity College Foundation Studies as part of Meld’s community newsroom collaboration. Education institutions, student clubs/societies and community groups interested in being involved can get in touch with us via