on February 25, 2015 Media Industry News

Oscar Films Lose Big Due to Piracy

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2014 marked the year of security—or lack thereof—in the film industry. After the Sony incident, studios have buckled down to avoid leaks and jeopardizing potential earnings. Yet somehow movies are still being streamed on the Internet before they are officially released. Not only are movies being prematurely leaked, but they are also being bootlegged and pirated throughout their run in theaters. Hollywood Studios have lost an estimated $40 million in revenue after several Oscar-nominated films were pirated online and illegally viewed by millions. 

Here is the list of the top seven pirated Oscar films this year: 

1. “American Sniper”: 5.5 million (downloads)

2. “Birdman”: 3.9 milllion

3. “Theory of Everything”: 3.4 million 

4. “Gone Girl”: 2.5 million

5. "The Imitation Game": 2.3 million

6. “Whiplash”: 1.6 million

7. “Boyhood”: 1.3 million

On January 15th, Oscar nominations were announced. Within 30 days, there was a 385 percent increase in the illegal downloads of these films. Ironically, “Gone Girl” and “Boyhood” had already been released on DVD, Blu-Ray, VOD, and streaming services in both the US and internationally, but people still don’t want to pay, even if it’s more convenient than going to the movie theaters. The US has the most illicit downloads, followed by Russia, Italy, and the UK (full list). “In the world of Internet redistribution, the window between theatrical release and worldwide market availability may simply be too long,” said Rory O’Connor, the VP of services at Irdeto, a media protection provider. “Today’s consumers simply refuse to wait to access these movies through legitimate services.” 2014’s piracy activities took potential earnings away from every well-known production of the year. 

Here is the list of the top 10 pirated movies of 2014 ranked by (approximate) number of downloads.

1. “The Wolf of Wall Street”: 30.035 million 

2. “Frozen”: 29.919 million                           

3. “RoboCop”: 29.879 million

4. “Gravity”: 29.357 million

5. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”: 27.627 million 

6. “Thor: The Dark World”: 25.749 million 

7. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”: 25.628 million

8. “The Legend of Hercules”: 25.137 million

9. “X-Men: Days of Future Past”: 24.380 million

10. “12 Years a Slave”: 23.653 million 

O’Connor continued, “We need to move at the speed of the Internet rather than the traditional course, which was based on movie reels traveling around the country and then moving abroad,” He calls for a “global release date that allows companies to maximize monetization.” However, Jeff Gomez, CEO at Starlight Runner Entertainment does not think utilizing both the web and theaters simultaneously would work. “The studios don’t want to challenge the theater chains at that level quite yet,” Gomez says. “While the online release of a first-run like The Interview did quite well, with the film being offered on different platforms for streaming and download, it still pulled in a fraction of [what] the picture would have done in a standard theatrical distribution.” ($60 million budget only made $50).

Although there seems to be no efficient solution to solving the problem of piracy, Hollywood will continue to explore different releasing options. The current model consists of "theatrical releases for a high, one-time viewing price; DVD sales for multiple viewings; then HBO, or Netflix, or a similar service for a subscription price to view many movies relatively cheaply.” But is there a better option? Maybe some sort of pay-per-view premium online? Or perhaps banning Hollywood screeners?

Members of the Academy and the Directors Guild of America who vote on key awards account for 31% of total pirated downloads. The former President of the Motion Picture Association of America tried to get screeners banned in 2003, but couldn't convince the majority of his board. However, studios are beginning to transition to online screeners. Without tangible DVDs or Blu-Rays, the amount of pirated movies may significantly decrease. Hopefully over then next few years the Oscar nominated films will be able to earn their well-deserved revenue.

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Nick Shanman

Intern at large. Movie buff.