In 2015, the movie industry made over 11 billion dollars, the first time it has reached that mark. If one were to only listen to movie studio executives, they would assume that the movie industry has been continuously losing money due to the onset of “pirating” – a term used to describe the illegal or immoral downloading of movies through file-sharing websites such as the Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents.
Studio Heads claim that pirating movies will lead to the collapse of the movie industry due to moviegoers continuing to download movies for free instead of spending $12 to purchase a ticket at the big screen. They threaten litigation and stiff penalties to anyone caught downloading or uploading movies on the internet. Who would want to risk years of jail time just so they can download a movie for free? Not a lot of people, but internet users continue to share movies over the net and it is becoming less and less likely that movie studios and governments will be able to completely shut down file sharing websites. However, a quick glance at the numbers reveals that the movie industry should be thanking illegal downloaders instead of trying to punish them.
2015 was a record year for movies. Domestically (America and Canada), the industry grossed over 11 billion dollars, which stands as the highest single year gross of all time. Two of the top five highest grossing movies were released in 2015 – Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In addition, the international movie market is burgeoning as Hollywood movies are now seeing the bulk of their revenues come from overseas screens. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already surpassed the 1 billion dollar mark in foreign markets, and four of the top seven highest grossing movies worldwide were released in 2015 (Star Wars, Jurassic World, Furious Seven, Avengers: Age of Ultron). The movie industry is reaching unprecedented heights, but you wouldn’t think so given the propaganda we are hearing out of Tinsel Town.
Downloading, or “torrenting” movies has not negatively impacted Hollywood’s bottom line, and here’s why. The people who are downloading movies are ones that cannot afford to buy $12 movie tickets. The ones who can afford to see a movie in a theatre do just that; the ones who can’t, don’t. In 2006, the average movie ticket in America cost $6.55, and in 2016, the average price of admission is $8.61. Movie ticket inflation has therefore pushed lower-income moviegoers out of the market. Add in the exorbitant costs of popcorn and treats and suddenly prices exceed $20 per person. It is no surprise, then, that low-income earners are turning to torrenting sites to get their movie fix. But this doesn’t explain how downloading movies helps the movie industry, it just demonstrates how it doesn’t damage it. The real benefit to Hollywood comes from the word-of-mouth that downloaders give to low-budget movies.
Hollywood hangs a lot of its hopes on the creative marketing of its movies, which can often match production costs. Moviegoers are subject to seeing movie trailers, commercials, actor interviews, actor appearances on talk shows, posters, product advertising, etc. Blockbuster movies receive enourmous marketing budgets, and their efforts often translate into high box office returns. Low-budget and independently-produced movies, however, do not have the privilege of having large marketing budgets, and therefore, aren’t able to reach the masses. These types of movies (at least the good ones) are often recognized first on torrenting sites and lead to word-of-mouth – a term used to describe a type of marketing where moviegoers tell their friends about a movie and encourage them to see it.
If an independent/low-budget movie is worth seeing, people will download it and push it to the top of torrent lists. This increases the popularity of movies online and also increases a movie’s word-of-mouth. Downloaders tell their friends about it, and if their friends are fortunate enough to have their wages keep up with movie price inflation, they will be able to afford seeing the movie in theatres. Good word-of-mouth creates a domino effect. Low budget movies then receive the revenues they need to expand in theatres and market their movies more widely. It is a win-win formula, thanks to movie downloading.