A more risky method of watching movies today is a word met with mixed (mostly negative) emotions from anyone who has seen a movie over the past 30 years: piracy. Film piracy has been around even longer than that, dating back to the early days of Hollywood in some fashion or another in vaudeville and early motion pictures. Just like most crimes, it continues to evolve and keep up with the industry it seeks so desperately to rip off.
Whereas in the past it has been regarded as a strain on Hollywood, and robbing the creativity of those involved in making the films, now there are certain groups that have changed in response to recent piracy. One in particular is in regards to the HBO hit series Game of Thrones. When the show became the most illegally downloaded show of 2014, the reaction from HBO was surprising in that the makers of the show were concerned that the illegal versions were not high enough quality to enjoy the show to the fullest extent.
This calls to mind the old adage of “any publicity is good publicity”. Taken one step further, do the illegal downloads of the show make for good advertising? HBO execs are looking at this as an increased exposure to the network and the show, which ideally increases legitimate viewership and revenue. For a heavy-hitting, popular show this can make sense, but for a feature that doesn’t have that sort of strength, it is another story.
Such is the case with the recent debacle of The Expendables 3 that was released last year. There was a great amount of controversy over the movie getting pirated and released before it even hit theaters. The quickly discovered lackluster production of the third film in the series, left even the pirated viewership short. Negative reviews of people who didn’t pay for the movie led those willing to pay to question their decision, which put a major hit on the box office numbers. Quantification of the losses is nearly impossible though, since it cannot be proven whether or not an individual would have actually seen the movie.
When it comes down to it, film piracy can be advertising, and whether it is good or bad advertising, just like any other product, depends on the results of what is being released to the audience and what perceived value they get from it. I prefer to watch my movies the legitimate way, but piracy does present some major advertising to me by getting certain titles on my radar that I may not have thought about prior. And for the record, I have seen the “good advertising” example and have not seen the bad example….yet.