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American Gangster Defies PreRelease Doom
November 5, 2007
Thomas Mennecke
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American Gangster, the Denzel Washington/Russell Crowe crime thriller which portrays the life of Harlem gangster Frank Lucas, was the top grossing film in North America. The well received movie brought in over $46 million since opening on Friday. American Gangster achieved this success despite a massive Internet prerelease a week prior to the film’s scheduled theatrical release.

Those familiar with the online distribution world knew that American Gangster started to publicly appear on Usenet, BitTorrent, and other file-sharing mediums well beforehand. Unlike the normal array of prereleased content, viewers of American Gangster noted the abnormally high quality of the release. Prereleased films are typically substandard in quality, the result the overwhelming desire to "be first" on the scene.

Hollywood has taken a hard line against those who make preleased films available. Just ask Scott McCausland, the administrator of EliteTorrents. His now defunct BitTorrent site prereleased "Star Wars: Episode III" only 24 hours before the films theatrical release. Those 24 hours were enough to land Scot in Federal prison for 6 months.

The effect a prerelease has on the total gross of a movie is unknown. When we questioned Universal the projected weekend gross of American Gangster, they were unable to comment because of the ongoing investigation into the leak. Judging from the amount of enforcement effort however, the movie industry is giving at least the overt impression that prereleased films are detrimental to their bottom line.

However last year the big November openers were James Bond “Casino Royale” and “Happy Feet”, which made $ 40.8 and $41.5 million in their opening weekend. Taking account for inflation that hovers around 2%, the studios needed an opener that made at least $ 41-42 million to meet last year’s haul. That goal was readily accomplished with American Gangster’s hefty $46 million box office weekend.

Therefore, at a minimum, American Gangster was able not only meet “Casino Royale” and “Happy Feet”, but exceed their gross by between 4 and 5 million dollars. Perhaps the anticipated gross of American Gangster was $50 million, which in that case it could be inferred that piracy might have negatively impacted its weekend haul. That doesn’t appear to be the case though. The doom and gloom scenario that is typically associated with prereleased films didn’t come to fruition this time around, nor has it a majority of the time.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
Unauthorized Distribution :: Digital Piracy

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