Garrett Harris 12:36 a.m., June 19
Study Finds Video Piracy Has Little Impact on U.S. Box Office
Deadline Hollywood posted this fascinating study on the effects video piracy has on the American motion picture industry. The lag-time release to other countries may impact overseas profits, but back home people still prefer the theatrical experience over streaming BitTorrents.
It comes as no surprise that the two genres to show the largest rise in piracy are action and science fiction. Odd when you consider that these effects-driven extravaganzas are the films you'd think most people would want to see on the big screen as opposed to a 15-inch computer monitor.
The study focuses on illegal downloads, not bootleg DVDs which, not unlike CDs, are on the verge of extinction. Everything is going digital. The only place you're likely to find a CD player is in your car.
People still burn CDs to listen to on their morning commutes or take advantage of the USB drive that's become standard equipment. In a few years the only places you'll be able to find CDs are big-box stores like Walmart or Best Buy. Can the end digital video discs be far off?
Remember purchasing an LP, popping it on the turntable, and spending what seemed like hours exploring every inch of the album cover? What can I say? I'm a sucker for packaging and the thought of titling each disc with a Sharpee and housing a DVD collection on a spindle doesn't set well. Chances are, this phenomenon will not last long. Soon every film ever made will be instantly downloadable at the click of a mouse.
Have I ever participated in an illegal download? Guilty as charged, but blame the company I keep. A friend, knowing my desire to see Joseph Losey's remake of Fritz Lang's M forwarded me a link. The image was so degraded I'd have had a clearer shot at seeing it had a Super8 print been projected on Phyllis Diller's underarm.
A colleague skilled at video piracy heard me praise Ninja III: The Domination, a supreme guilty pleasure yet to be released on DVD, and rewarded me with a bootleg copy that appears to have been mastered from a VHS tape.
Legend has it that when E.T. premiered at Chicago's Eden's Theatre, there was a truck containing a telecine bay parked in the lot. As soon as a reel went through the projector, it was brought to the van where it was illegally duplicated. That was definitely an "outside job," but does the same currently hold true?
Studios now send security guards equipped with night vision goggles to ensure advance screening audiences aren't recording the feature on their phone with the intent of peddling it on the streets of Tijuana. A friend whose business takes him to China several times a year has been known to bring back bootleg DVDs of films currently playing local theatres.
The dubs are as clean as store bought copies, right down to the commentary tracks and bonus features. This is not the work of a fan trying to pick up a few bucks on the side. These copies are coming from within studio walls, illegally pirated and sold by colorists or telecine operators who have access to the goodies.
This is by no means meant as an invitation to steal. It's a wake-up call that what's worth having is worth preserving, and film should not be treated as a mere feed-through to television sets or computer screens. Studios that want to keep the moviegoing experience alive and vital need to take a bite out of BitTorrents, and there's no better place to start than in their own backlots.