The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has made it commonly known that piracy of their films is reaching epidemic proportions. But is this true? Even if it is, is this even a “bad” thing?
There used to be a time when you had to either go to a movie theater, or wait for an alternate (edited) version of a movie to appear on broadcast television. Then came videocassettes. Fearing rampant piracy, the MPAA cried foul, because, in their opinion, if you can tape something from a friend, you will not buy it. Ever.
Be advised, part of the money you spend on dvd, blu-ray, and videocassette players goes directly to the MPAA as a result.
Now, you can watch a movie “on demand,” or online via Netflix, on a movie channel on cable (such as HBO or Cinemax), or, gulp, by downloading it. Theaters are now a luxury, not a necessity. If you go to a small, non-major-studio-owned theater and watch a movie, you have a pretty good chance of getting an inferior experience than you would at home, with 40″+ wide screen TVs and 7.1 Surroundsound home theater systems readily available. Plus, you have to pay the ever increasing gas prices, take the time to get the family ready, stand in line, buy $300.00 vats of industrial-grade styrofoam popcorn, and navigate through the dreaded “Floor of Infinite Stickiness.” This puts the industry in a bind; most movie studios also own the theaters. The basic money making formula is Theater first, followed by (or in conjunction with) foreign release, followed by on demand release, regular TV release, DVD, Blu-Ray, then, when everything has been milked dry, the “Special Edition” format of DVD/Blu-Ray (with features that may or may not be, you know, special).
That’s 7 ways to make money on one, count ’em, ONE product, the film. And I’m not even including replacing a copy you have already bought because someone sat on it, or having to leave the theater because Junior was screaming.
Piracy has changed all of that, possibly forever.
The industry can’t just make any movie (however good or bad), send it to the promoters, and count the dough (allegedly). For one, if they make a bad movie, it takes all of one day before everyone and their mother knows how bad it is, and why. The kicker is, many of the people spreading the word never paid a dime to see the movie. Ouch. That’s….what’s the word? Accountability. And forget about people having to buy numerous versions of the same product, just because it’s got negligible added features, or they happen to be clumsy/unlucky. Now, there is an ever-growing segment of the movie-watching population that won’t even think about paying for a movie, in any format, without seeing it first. Only if they deem it worthy of their money will they buy into the “product.” Even some people who have paid to see the movie in theaters may download it- the rationale being, they have paid their money, and now feel entitled to watch it again, but at home.
I have a hard time arguing with the morality of doing any of those things. How much has the movie industry made from people having to replace something they have already bought? Or to see a movie again that they have already seen? How many people wish they had never wasted their time and/or money on an inferior “product?” Those days are rapidly coming to an end.
There is one legitimate gripe the industry does have, however, and I really can’t find fault with it: What about the people downloading their content for free, and have no intention on spending money for the product? Although the MPAA has thrown numbers out (and rescinded them), it’s impossible to know how much revenue was actually lost due to piracy, without administering truth serum to downloaders, and hooking them up to a polygraph. Would they have bought the product if it wasn’t free, or are they taking advantage of an opportunity to get free stuff? Do they have the money to spend on this product at all?
The ramifications for rampant piracy have already become apparent- studios now closely follow a formulaic approach to making films, careful not to deviate from “what makes money.” They will maximize profit by any means available, up to, and including, churning out clones of recent successes ad nauseum, until they cease to remain profitable. They will also fight the internet, instead of finding a way to partner with it, which is sad. It’s almost like they’re fighting with us, collectively, as some kind of combatant.
They can not beat piracy. They can not beat the internet. If they were smart, they would find a way to embrace the technology, lower prices, and give people an incentive to purchase their product, not penalize people who may want to own it in varied formats, and/or replace lost or missing items thereof. They should hold themselves to a higher standard of moviemaking, instead of marketing to children or people sure to reinvest in the same product.
In short, the MPAA is suffering for business practices they had in place for over 50 years, and are discovering that now the public at large doesn’t want to (or have to) stand for it any more.