Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Piracy: Why Hollywood is Losing the Battle.
Posted by Courtney Small
Piracy is an epidemic that is slowly changing the shape of various industries around the world. In recent years piracy has become a major problem in the film industry with no clear fix in sight. Unlike the music industry, which has been significantly weakened by consumers who view illegal downloading as an acceptable evil, the film industry is still staying a float in the mist of piracy.
This is not to say that the film industry has not been taking a hit financially. Some reports claim that the film industry is loosing over 20 billion dollars a year as a result of piracy. The effects of piracy have even crippled the once powerful Blockbuster video rental chain. Formerly the powerhouse in the home video rental market, Blockbuster is now holding nation wide closing sales at each of their stores locations. Films that once cost $25 dollars to purchase new, $15 to purchase previously viewed, and $5.99 to rent for a few nights, are now being sold for $6.99 to $14.99 with an additional 30 percent off of already marked down sale prices.
The closing of Blockbuster video coupled with the summer movie season has brought piracy back into the forefront of public attention. A few weeks ago a local television news station conducted their semi-annual “expose” on the local Asian-Canadian centric malls that openly sell bootleg DVDs. Although these particular establishments sell the bootlegs all year around, the news only ever seems to bring it to light at the beginning of the summer movie season and again just before the holiday movie season.
While the news report was trying to preach the damage that piracy inflicts, their overall approach, similar to Hollywood’s current one, was sorely misguided. The report used the recently released Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an example of how easy it was to buy a bootleg copy of the film, plus two other films, for a mere $10. The reporter pointed out how this was costing the studio millions in lost revenue. Yet the reporter also stated that On Stranger Tides had an opening weekend of 90 million dollars in North America and over 200 million dollars worldwide in the same three day span.
This is a perfect example of why Hollywood is losing the battle against piracy. You cannot get people to rally behind a cause if the cause itself does not seem worth fighting for. It is tough to shed a tear for an industry that has reported record breaking numbers each week this summer season since the release of Fast Five. Instead of focusing on the big blockbuster movies that will do well regardless (e.g. Pirates, Thor, The Hangover: Part 2, etc.), the studios should really be promoting the section of the industry that suffers the most…independent cinema.
It is hard enough for independent films to get funding, let alone find theatres willing to show the film, without piracy taking away profits. This is where the anti-piracy marketing should really be focused. Instead of replaying the same footage of a key grip talking about how piracy hinders his livelihood, why not shoot simple adds with high profile actors and directors talking about their start in smaller films. If you use recognizable faces (e.g. Johnny Depp, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman etc.) to highlight the problem, chances are people are going to listen far more than some unknown industry worker lamenting for two minutes.
In an age where the line between ownership and entitlement is becoming increasingly blurred, it is time for Hollywood to change its battle strategy. This does not mean making more 3D movies, but actually working to gain both the consumer’s understanding and trust. Instead of trying to make them feel sorry for a project that is breaking box-office records despite the existence of piracy, they should be focusing their energy on promoting the smaller works that are consistently being stifled. Only when Hollywood shifts its focus will they start to make a dent in the war against illegal downloading and bootlegging.