Nolte: Piracy Threatens Hollywood Ticket Sales, Streaming Subscribers
The pro-lockdown, government-sycophants in Hollywood are reaping a little of what they sowed with a massive piracy problem.
Without asking a single question, the far-left entertainment community almost uniformly accepted all the anti-science edicts from local, Democrat-run governments, including the insane lockdowns that decimated their theatrical business.
Thinking they knew better, thinking they could profit from the pandemic and break the hold of theater owners over their release options, the studios decided to release their theatrical movies directly to pay-per-view or to their own streaming services. Then, on that same day, those big movies hit theaters. What better way to juice their subscriber base?
Well, that isn’t working out exactly as planned:
Millions of people are watching high-quality, pirated online versions of Hollywood’s top movies sooner than ever after their releases, undermining potential ticket sales and subscriber growth as the industry embraces streaming.
Earlier this year, the high volume of global piracy of “Godzilla vs. Kong” surprised executives at its studio, Warner Bros., according to people familiar with the matter. People illegally streamed the movie over 34 million times, according to Muso.
When Disney released “Jungle Cruise,” starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, on Disney+, a community of tens of thousands of people were both “seeding”—meaning sharing an illegal copy—and “leeching”—downloading the film free—within less than a day of its release, according to piracy tracking sites. Disney, which charged Disney+ users an extra $30 to watch the movie on the platform, said it grossed $30 million from subscribers on the film’s opening weekend.
Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson in “Jungle Cruise.” (FRANK MASI/WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES)
Once you release a movie on home video, it can immediately be pirated in the highest quality. On the flip side, while a movie is in theaters, the pirated copies are much less desirable. You either get a copy recorded in a theater with terrible sound, or a copy lifted from post-production screeners that might include time code and a mono soundtrack… But once it’s out on video, the pirates have a high-definition copy with 7.1 surround sound, and since you won’t see a better copy than that legally, why go to the movies? Why subscribe to a streaming service. Why rent it from Redbox?
“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” (Warner Bros. Pictures And Legendary Pictures)
What’s truly shocking is how easy it is to find pirated movies and TV shows online. I’m practically a Luddite when it comes to this stuff, and even I know where to find it. The only thing stopping me from enjoying all this free, illegal content is my conscience and somewhat public profile. Getting busted would be pretty embarrassing for my company and me.
But why is it allowed to be so easy to watch pirated content online? I find this baffling.
So with this new reality, the questions for Hollywood are this… Would those tens of millions who download pirated content pay for that content if it wasn’t pirated? And if so, how many would? Also, is the boost in subscribers that comes with a same-day title release worth the loss to piracy that comes part and parcel with that same-day release?
A woman watches a trailer for the Disney movie “Mulan” at a theater in Beijing on September 9, 2020. (GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)
Me? I think streaming is it, the whole megillah, the endgame of entertainment.
Between the virus and the talkers and the overpriced concessions, movies will soon be like amusement parks, something people maybe do once a year. People want to watch what they want when they want, and streaming is a miracle, the final frontier.
And for the studios, it’s a golden goose of tens of millions of subscribers who bring in a billion dollars a month guaranteed.
The piracy is worth it.