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Pirates Top Charts
July 24, 2006
Thomas Mennecke
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It’s not often Hollywood enjoys the piracy culture. Lambasted as one of the key reasons for over 2 billion dollars in purported losses, piracy has been Hollywood’s publicity scapegoat. This stigma has resulted in numerous enforcement actions against individuals and various indexing servers.

There’s no secret that theater ticket sales have been steadily decreasing. Like the music industry, Hollywood has blamed piracy and file-sharing as major co-conspirators. However, this explanation only provides superficial insight into the decline. The motivating factor behind the fall of ticket sales provides greater substance. Similar to the motivating factor behind the decline of CD sales, once again the general populace is technologically superior to Hollywood’s distribution methods. People want quick, cheap, and extremely portable solutions. When Hollywood or the music industry is 5 years behind the technological eight ball, the tech savvy Internet populace is compelled to find solutions elsewhere.

The theater experience appears to be slowly fading as Internet distribution heads to the mainstream. With home theaters and surround sound systems falling to prices more justifiable than long term theater commitment, studios are rushing to accommodate this shift. The MPAA and BitTorrent agreed to work together for online movie distribution, while Movielink stands ready to allow transportability to blank DVD media. Does this mean we’ll all be sitting at home watching “Pirates of the Caribbean: Part 6” in the comfort of our home theater one day?

Here’s where the fly in the piracy ointment comes into play.

Although ticket sales are dropping, this affliction only pertains to a certain number of movies. Mega-blockbusters such as Spiderman, Star Wars, The Chronic of Narnia, and a select others appear immune from the box office slump. Event movies such as these are not affected by piracy, theater ticket prices, or many of the other factors that play into a consumer’s decision making process. Another movie seemingly immune from the shift to home theater is Hollywood’s latest Pirates of the Caribbean release.

Despite marginal reviews, Pirates has already smashed two movie records – greatest weekend earning with over $132 million in gross; and quickest to earn $300 million. If Pirates maintains its momentum, it could possibly become the top earning movie ever – beating Titanic’s $600 million domestic earning.

Has Hollywood or the MPAA solved the piracy issue? Surely “Pirates of the Caribbean” has been so well protected that no one dares to download this latest Hollywood blockbuster.

In reality, quite the opposite is true. According to BigChampagne, a P2P tracking firm, Pirates of the Caribbean continues to be downloaded by the greatest number of people via BitTorrent at any given moment. Because of technical limitations, the volume of individuals represented by BigChampagne is actually a much smaller representation of the greater whole. In other words, when BigChampagne states that approximately 49,000 simultaneous individuals are downloading Pirates of the Caribbean, the actual number is significantly higher. It should be noted this number represents the number of individuals downloading the movie at any given time, not the total number of downloads.

Whatever the total number of individuals via BitTorrent, or any other P2P/file-sharing protocol, its clear that Pirates of the Caribbean is a highly popular film online. The fascinating aspect is while this moviein in high demand online, the excessive rate of unauthorized downloads is having no ill effect on its theatrical performance. This quandary exemplifies a growing trend in Hollywood – big event movies are becoming the true money makers. Piracy-immune movies may one day be the de facto standard for theatrical release, while those more financially susceptible to unauthorized downloading will find their release in a home theater near you.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
File-Sharing/P2P Related :: Studies/Research
Entertainment Industry :: MPAA
Unauthorized Distribution :: Digital Piracy

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