Is Piracy a Danger to Independent Film? Part 1: The Search – In Which I Can’t Find Much of Anything
From IndieWire.com: Last month, Tim League and Ruth Vitale, founder of and CEO of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and the Executive Director of CreativeFuture respectively, released an op-ed they jointly penned. In this post that appeared on Indiewire, they argued strongly that piracy is a danger to indie film.
It’s a post that’s very impassioned. It’s also lite on articulating a definitive link between piracy and independent film.
No one can debate that piracy is inherently good or benign. While there are still no definitive studies that have demonstrated the impact illegal downloading has on box office numbers, what happened to Expendables 3 rightfully put the fear into any studio, distributor and exhibitor. The initial number of 100,000 downloads in the first 24 hours has ticked up to 250,000 and tracking firm Exicipio reports 2 million downloads of the film and growing.
Expendables 2 opened to $28 million domestic and Expendables opened to $34 million. The average price of a ticket according to Box Office Mojo is $8.15. Assuming those 2 million downloads had been planning to attend the movie and will now skip the film in theaters, that’s a healthy $16.3 million that Lionsgate may lose. Watching 50 to 60 percent of your opening weekend evaporate thanks to a single leak of a DVD should give us all pause.
Yet, the film has yet to open. Where the third installment of the franchise lands, we won’t know till Monday, August 18. Conjecture at this point would be conjecture. If the film opens north of Expendables, expect many posts arguing that piracy didn’t hurt and maybe even helped, if it does worse than 2, then the piracy hurts posts will come, if it lands in the middle, the wild all over the place posts will likely outnumber the previous two combined.
Back to independent film. League and Vitale’s piece stressed two major points: “The fact is: pirate sites don’t discriminate based on a movie’s budget. As long as they can generate revenue from advertising and credit card payments—while giving away your stolen content for free—pirate site operators have little reason to care if a film starts with an investment of $10,000 or $200 million. Whether you’re employed by a major studio or a do-it-yourself creator, if you’re involved in the making of TV or film, it’s safe to assume that piracy takes a big cut out of your business.”
The first, is that independent film is not immune to piracy and we can “assume that piracy” is hurting the financial viability of indie film: “We know piracy won’t go away altogether, and we won’t always agree on the best way to go about disrupting it. But we can agree on a vision for a digital future that better serves audiences and artists alike, and that future depends on reducing piracy.”
The second, reducing piracy will “better serve audiences and artists.”
Let’s start with something easy to test that first claim, we’ll do that by using Kickass Torrents to search for films that screened at Sundance this year. We’ll use the films from the U.S. Documentary (16), U.S. Dramatic (16), and Premiere (19) sections. With 51 films listed and this being six months after their initial screenings, it should give us a strong picture.