Amazingly, Downloadability Of Michael Moore's Film Didn't Appear To Hurt Box Office

from the how-shocking dept

We thought it was fairly amusing last month when Advertising Age claimed that Michael Moore’s film being available for download online was “every film maker’s worst marketing nightmare.” After all, there was absolutely no evidence that having a film available to download hurts box office sales since the experience of watching on a computer and watching in a theater is totally different (and not just concerning quality and screen size, but the fact that going out to the movies is a social event). Plus, Moore himself had said in the past that he liked having his movies available for download. After all, remember that the last Star Wars movie was available for download before it came out and it certainly didn’t hurt sales. So, it came as no surprise to us to find out that Moore’s movie actually did quite well at the box office — coming in second on a per-theater revenue basis. However, if you want to see a copyright lawyer in denial, check out the quote that got from one when asked whether or not Moore’s film being available for download could possibly have helped ticket sales at the box office:

“No, no, no, no,” Prager seethed. “This is depressing. We’re not seeing a rise in the peer-to-peer influence market. Anything positive they may bring is instantly canceled.”

Apparently, the industry is now using the “if we just keep believing we’re right, despite the evidence, maybe it will be true” method of dealing with the changing market.

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Comments on “Amazingly, Downloadability Of Michael Moore's Film Didn't Appear To Hurt Box Office”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Personally I watched the movie on google video and I can’t wait till it shows up in a theater close enough to drive to so I can see it on the big screen with some friends. Anyone who thinks that a movie being available on the internet is a bad thing is simply retarded. Any movies who do poorly and are available on the internet likely weren’t good movies so no one bothered going to see them. I don’t understand why anyone should have to pay to see any poorly made movie and I think you should be given a refund if you genuinely thought the movie sucked as there’s no point in rewarding film makers or actors for making movies that suck. Doing so just encourages them to make more bad movies.

Richard (profile) says:

Come on now!

I’m as much of a supporter of the “distribution as promotion” idea as anyone, but you know as well as I do that you’re not being fair here.

A lot of the problem, as you’ve mentioned before, is that it’s very hard to estimate the influence of free/online distribution on a film/album/etc. – so to say that having the last Star Wars movie available online before it was released in cinemas “certainly didn’t hurt sales” is a fallacy. You can say that it certainly didn’t lead to the failure of the film at the box office, you can say that it didn’t appear to hurt sales, but there is no way of knowing what the sales would have been without the online distribution, so there’s no way of knowing the effect. I think it’s fair to say that having a film/album be available online for free probably does lead to some lost sales, but it also probably leads to some gained sales, as people who enjoy it decide to pay for cinema quality, sleeve notes, honour, etc. In general, unfortunately, we do not know how large these two effects, positive and negative, are – and therefore we cannot say if the online distribution was an overall gain or loss to the sales of the ‘product’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Come on now!

They’re being perfectly fair. The studios continue to claim piracy is destroying the business and they’ve yet to show how. It all comes down to greedy corporate types who see something that potentially takes a small amount of cash they don’t need or deserve being taken from their pockets and they go ballistic and try to destroy it rather than embrace it and use it to their own profit.

Steven says:

Re: Come on now!

I agree completely. We cannot say if items being available online for free have a positive, or negative effect on any type of sales.

There can be various reasons for downloading something for free on the internet. And every reason can be both positive, and negative. Optimism is blind… There’s no telling if downloading something for free is a good, or bad thing. There is so much free peer to peer software out there. (Soulseek, Kazaa, Kazaa Lite, Bear Share, Lime Wire, Bit Torrent, etc.) Maybe the ammount of p2p software gives people the idea to download for free. I mean the software is FREE, and very easy to locate. I honestly do not think it is possible to make writing p2p software illegal. Maybe it is legal to outlaw distributing it.. But it is insane trying to place laws on content gained from the internet. I mean does the law know how people are looking at child pornography right now? Or looking into ways to build bombs, murder people?

Keith says:

Re: Come on now!

I agree with you’re comment that one cannot know the influence but not with the assertion that there is no way of knowing. If the P2P system was more open to measurement (by taking away the legal threats) then the influence could probably be measured with some degree of accuracy. Marketing folk do this all the time for other mediums. Personally I think people would be surprised at the positive influence that would be shown.

SailorRipley says:

Re: Come on now!

True, we have no way of measuring the exact negative (nor positive) effects, so it is impossible to come to any conclusion with absolute certainty, I don’t dispute that.

However, this lack of facts/proof/certainty does not stop the MAFIAA and anybody even remotely related to or shilling for them from making wild, crazy statements (like every downloaded movie/song/… is lost revenue).

So I see no reason (moral or otherwise) why “we” (= supporters of “distribution as promotion”) can’t state there is no net negative effect, after all, we don’t have less definite proof (in fact, one could argue we have more, since there are a couple of studies that back our claim) than the MAFIAA AND we can be sure our statement, even if incorrect, will be much closer to reality than what the MAFIAA and all their minions are claiming…

Can we prove beyond reasonable doubt that we’re right? maybe not (yet), I totally agree on that, but my point is that that (temporary) inability should not make us feel obligated not to respond at all, there’s nothing wrong with countering their wild statements with our own, less wild, not less substantiated, much closer to reality, statements.

David Sternlight (user link) says:

Piracy and movies

Whether or not it affects sales (many if not most who watch clandestine copies would not go to that movie anyway), if the industry has any brains one thing it will do is improve the visual and auditory quality of films to the point where people will go for the experience, not available on a small screen through small speakers. One might even wish to see such a film again in the movie house after watching on the small screen.

After years of coasting, we are finally seeing theatre owners paying attention to consumer comfort (stadium seating so you don’t have to look “through” the rows in front of you), automated availability of tickets to avoid standing in line, better quality sound and video, even digital copying and distribution.

The smarter film makers will produce films with lots of scenery, spectacle, and just plain visual beauty. This need not be shoot-em-up action films or sci-fi; it can be moving “personal” films of beauty as well. Even low-budget film makers will benefit; natural scenery (and spectacular urban sites in many cases) are free. We may expect to see lots of beautiful or spectacular locales, both here and abroad. The theatregoer can only benefit, as can sales of movie tickets.

Mitch the Bitch says:


Anyone that watches anything this Joe Goebel’s wannabee pukes out his arse should not be allowed to vote or pr0create. The damage you freaks are doing to America is irrepairable.

Have you been to the DMV recently retards? Yea, I want my healthcare run JUST LIKE THAT…. What a bunch of gullible moronic fools.

Yet another perfect illustraion of why we are headed towards another Civil War. Common sense and reality WILL prevail!

Anonymous Coward says:


Personally I think Micheal Moore makes some valid points in this movie. Health care should not be an industry like vehicle production and it is. As for your DMV argument that wouldn’t be the case if the system itself wasn’t so horribly flawed. And hopefully if there is another civil war common sense will prevail and people who think the current way thinks are run is the best way will be the first to be executed.

Joe Schmo says:


Dear Mitch the Bitch:

You rule o supreme commander of the third reich!

“the damage you freaks are doing to America is irrepairable”

And yet the damage that America is doing to itself and the rest of the world is?

Get your southern-bubba-backwards-guntoting-applepie eating head out of the sand dude – America has created the mess, America is responsible for getting out of it – Getting a licence is and should be a little harder to get than getting healthcare – unless of course there is a sale on gun racks at the local quik-e-mart!

ehrichweiss says:


Getting a license should be much, much harder than it currently is. With rising gas prices it should be a requirement that you know how to drive smoothly in traffic, know when NOT to use the brake, know when to use the *passing* lane, know when it’s safe and courteous to move into a new lane(the people who pull in front of you knowing you’re moving about 45mph thinking you should be forced to waste gas and slow down when they could have waited 10 seconds and there would have been 1/4 mile of free space behind you….they’d fail immediately and be sentenced to death).

Healthcare needs to be much more efficient than it currently is. Healthier people equals a more productive society.

David Sternlight (user link) says:

A modest proposal

Let us suppose the movie industry agreed to stop going after downloaders for a test period, and instead offered immunity from prosecution to any who revealed their identity by voluntarily paying a quarter or a half a buck to a movie industry fund or a trusted intermediary organization for each pirated film they watched henceforth. (How much do they get in fees and royalties from, for example, Netflix, which charges $10 a month for about 12-18 films a month (depending on how fast the post office turns around one’s entitled 3 films at a time).

I believe people are fundamentally trustworthy, but if I am wrong, after the test period the program could be scrapped and the identities of the participants destroyed. A binding legal undertaking to do so, and not to use such information if obtained otherwise (from a leaker, for example) would need to be part of the plan.

Overcast says:

The problem is the ‘threatening’ of their old hold on entertainment. Not Piracy.

They are worried – since the internet is a better, faster distribution system. People can produce, market, and distribute their own content and not need the corporate monolithic system to market their content.

It’s like the quill and ink well – there is just a better way now…

Nathania (profile) says:

The real problem with Michael Moore’s statement is that the film is about people who (supposedly) don’t have $ for healthcare.

If he’s that passionate about it, then why doesn’t he just release it on the internet himself for free. What about the people who can’t afford to see it in the theater? They could watch it at school or a public library.

It’s just like Al Gore and his recycled materials DVD for Inconvenient Truth. Come on already! If he’d just released it on the internet, he wouldn’t use any materials – and save $ on gas for shipping the DVDs to the stores.

These dudes are after $ and don’t think they won’t benefit in a monetary way should their agendas win in Washington.

Health care system would be far worse if run by the government. Is anything run by the government actually worth admiring? NO!

Jack Sombra says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Like the military or the police or the fire department? I bet you got turned down by one of those and now you’ve got “sour grapes” syndrome.”
Look at where the military/police and fire dept’s interface with the government/politicians and you will see that things are run horribly.

That does get reduced as things cascade down the ranks (aka by the people who care about their professions) but that does not change the fact that they could do their jobs a lot better if things were being done correctly “at the top”

No Moore says:

Re: Re:

If he’s that passionate about it, then why doesn’t he just release it on the internet himself for free. What about the people who can’t afford to see it in the theater? They could watch it at school or a public library.

Fat Mike is interested in making as much money as possible, he has no interest in being amongst the people depicted in his films. He lives in New York City, in a very pricey place on the Upper East Side and has a hired driver to cart his lard butt around.

He’s a compete phoney, and this film, like all of his, is full of inaccuracies and lies.

Stop paying to watch his crap, show you have some intelligence.

David Sternlight says:

Is anything run by the government worth admiring

The list is long:
The National Institutes of Health
The National Institute of Standards and Technology
The National Park Service
Various “first responder” and emergency programs (though with the massive challenges there will be some mistakes).
The Government Printing Office
The Library of Congress
The delivery system for Social Security payments
The client relations system of the Social Security Administration
Some parts of the foreign aid program
Many parts of the Defense Department
Most programs of the EPA
The college loan program
The FHA housing subsidy program (though not without its faults)
The FBI (though turf wars and overzealousness have sometimes vitiated its effectiveness)
The NSA (a marvel of technology, though some operations are the result of policy decisions at higher levels about which civil libertarians might disagree)
The Office of Naval Research
The US Military on the ground, especially those who have given their lives or health for the country.
etc. etc.

Many of the criticisms of “the government” one has are actually disagreements with policy makers, not the program implementers. I spent a year in the government as a Presidential Interchange Executive, and found most government employees I met to be dedicated, hard working individuals, who could easily have earned much more in non-governmental service but chose to work for “the people” or “the country” instead.

Finally, one must think carefully about which criticisms of “the government” are fact-based and legitimate, and which are due to just plain policy disagreements with many of one’s fellow Americans, or even authority problems when growing up.

Finally, on the topic of this thread I have found Michael Moore to be a biased ideologue whose past films are full of selective material, special pleading, suppressed refutatory material including material in his possession, and just plain outrageously and deliberately misleading presentation. For details see any of the myriad of his factual (not ideological) critics available through a Google search.

And another thing,..When I was getting my Ph.D. in London I used the National Health System for myself, my wife, and for pre-natal,delivery, and post-natal care of my first-born son. Despite my being an American student who didn’t pay taxes and could afford private care, it was wonderful and the physicians, nurses, and midwives provided excellent care and all the attention we could have wished. In addition the system provided excellent nutritional care and free milk after the birth of my son. The services were the same for everyone in the system.

lock80 says:

Re: Is anything run by the government worth admiri

Everyone wants to blast the government. So why does everyone want to come to America. If the government were to run and or regulate Heathcare it would take corperate greed out the the factor. There is no reason for everything in this industry to cost so much… except greed and coruption, pure and simple!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is anything run by the government worth ad

Everyone wants to blast the government. So why does everyone want to come to America.

Sorry to be the one to burst your bubble, but here’s the thing: they don’t.

If you’re ever curious about how people perceive the US outside of your propaganda-saturated circle jerk, I propose the following experiment.

Travel to Canada, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. Ask all the people you meet whether they would, given the opportunity, renounce their citizenship and instead become a US citizen. I think you’ll find the results interesting.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Re: Re: Is anything run by the government worth ad

Government is perfect! There is no greed and corruption in government! /sarcasm Free market rules! Corporations may make money but if they perform poorly we take our business elsewhere. They have an incentive to perform better. The government doesn’t give a f___ about you. They get paid whether or not they perform and never face punishment or firing for poor performance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is anything run by the government worth ad

So why does everyone want to come to America

as an AC already said, they don’t…this “everyone” of yours is highly over estimated.

AC’s suggestion to travel to those countries is not bad, although I would have listed a more (geographically) mixed bag, but if you don’t immediately have the time or $$ to plan those trips, as a cheap alternative, you could for example read “The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World” by Mark Hertsgaard.

I do agree that if government regulated health care, it would take corporate greed out of the equation. That’s one of the main reasons health care is so affordable in those “socialist” European countries (laughing here, I just can’t help it when people call Western European countries “socialist”)

Health Care Guy says:

Re: Is anything run by the government worth admiri

The English National Health System is apparently a breeding ground for terrorists. It is a direct result of socialized anything. There is no pride or loyalty, it’s just a job.

Nothing is free David, the Income tax and VAT tax in England pays for health care services. Between the two the top rate is 57% (the VAT is 17.5% with no deductions).

You made so many good points, why blow it with half the story.

Jack Sombra says:

Re: Re: Is anything run by the government worth ad

Income tax is on salary/income of an individual. Max rate is 40% this rate is only for income above £32k (aprox $60k)

VAT is a sales tax (17.5 %)

The two are not related

National Insurance contributions (NICs) pay for the national health system (and national pensions) and the rate is aprox 11% for income (before tax) of around £600 per week after that it is 1%

Brad says:

Re: Is anything run by the government worth admiri

“Finally, on the topic of this thread I have found Michael Moore to be a biased ideologue whose past films are full of selective material, special pleading, suppressed refutatory material including material in his possession, and just plain outrageously and deliberately misleading presentation. For details see any of the myriad of his factual (not ideological) critics available through a Google search.”

True enough! And also true of every one of the Bush Administration’s claims in support of the Iraq war.

Comicfan says:

Missing a point?

I think everyone is over looking here. For one, how does a movie get taken and put on the internet? Do typical users? Uh, no. Who is it that gets this material and distributes it like so? Was it those who downloaded it? Nope. So let’s ask ourselves, and Michael Moore, and his lawyer, or whoever, how did this happen? Who had rights to get this movie? It sure as hell wasn’t down loaders. Yet, the blame gets throw on piracy yet again, even with a successful movie.

I often wonder if not purposely put out, perhaps this would be the new attack method, purposely leak a movie, blame down loaders and piracy now they have a more solid argument since box office ratings show complete opposite.

Krum says:

Re: British National Health Service

I’m assuming you don’t know how much U.S. Health charges are vs. U.S. wages.
I have to pay around $122.00 American a month for full coverage. I still have co-pays of $10.00 if I want to see the doctor or $100.00 if I have to go to the E.R. as well as I still have to pay a premium on insurance and god forbid I have to stay overnight at a hospital!
I happen to make more than some people in the U.S. so $120.00 may not sound like much, but our Federal Minimum Wage is $5.15/hour so after taxes of an average of 20% and that insurance premium, someone making that wage would take home $537.20 a month. That’s around £266.36 a month in your land. If that’s how much you take home a month after taxes and the weekly stamp fee, then sure, US health insurance charges would have been less.

ecoshift says:

new paradigm

If movie is distributed on the internet, and it’s a good movie, the internet version is essentially advertising for the real deal. Word gets around about a movie worth seeing. Most people I know can’t play an internet movie on their tv or even their computer for that matter. They’ll go to the theater or rent the dvd if they get a chance.

If a movie is distributed on the internet, and it sucks, no amount of hype or marketing dollars spent on trailers with cherry picked scenes will save it.

Mediocrity and hype fear open distribution.

Re: a modest proposal
I’d gladly pay a buck to download a movie.

David Sternlight (user link) says:

Downloadable movies

While we’re trying to save the movie industry from itself, here are some more ideas:

In addition to a voluntary reasonable download fee:

Unobtrusive product placements, now a source of revenue, could command an even higher fee if there were a way to count the number of downloads;

Right now one is forced to watch previews and even advertising in movie houses. How about the same thing (with the amount of time limited to that in movie houses) for downloadable movies? Since everyone has a computer who would download, the ads could be targeted to those who own computers (not just computer products but cameras, ipods, educational products, etc.), making the ad time even more valuable to the producers and at least more interesting than popcorn ads. The technology already exists to prevent skipping the previews on DVDs; something similar could be used for downloadable movies.

H’mmm. Maybe MPAA should hire me as a consultant.

av says:

Beautiful Irony

I like that Mike Masnick is commenting on file sharing with regard to a Michael Moore movie. Both Moore and Masnick address interesting controversies, start off with a fairly decent explanation of what going on, then they go off on some polemic where absurdity ruins whatever balanced message might have been expressed. Masnick is so bent on the fact that sharing will improve sales, he can’t give a balanced explanation of what it might be doing to the market. Substitute “the MafIAA” for Masnick and “hurt” for improve in that last sentence. Funny.

O/t, but as for Moore, I really hate the American health care system and I really hope things change, but I’m not inclined to pay money to see Sicko. Like other Moore movies, I’m sure there’ll be some Geraldo-Rivera-inspired stunt at the end that will ruin whatever cogent points the film was trying to make.

old f&rt says:

Who Cares

I haven’t gone out and paid to see a movie in 15 years. I don’t download the crap either. I hate so many “stars” that there are rarely movies made that do not hire people that I can not stand. Michael Moore is a funny guy… Funny looking guy, I meant to say. Who cares. Die movie industry. Die music industry. I hate you all and will happily water the flowers on your graves. Your industry in a great thing, for me to poop on.

Gustavo says:

I only believe the availablity of the videos online will hurt the box office’s profit in the cases where there’s a lot of hype on the movies and it has a minimum of quality.

If you take something like ‘Catwoman’, being on-line surely hurts the sales. And that’s where they earn (or loose, for that matter) the money. If they can at least make people go the the theaters before they realise that the video is a piece of crap, they’ll get some extra bucks.

Mark says:

Here in NZ it costs about $34 to buy a DVD or new release Music CD. If you buy music or movies but don’t like them, tough. By downloading this stuff at least you will know whether or not you are buying something worth watching/listening to.

The media used is also an issue, after about 10 years its common that your DVD or CD will no longer work due to ‘disk rot’ which means you would have to repurchase a copy to watch/listen to your stuff, at least hard drive content lasts forever.

If the recording industry want a solution, put the content on something thats long term reliable and reduce the damn prices!

Rafael A. Junquera (user link) says:


I disagree in terms of not knowing the effect of piracy since it all comes down to the user’s motivation for seeing it one way or the other. If the user only seeks to save money when experiencing a movie, then piracy should hurt ticket sales. If, lets say all society was concern with that, no one will go to the movies. Those who have the motivation of not paying are people that would not pay to see the movie even if piracy was not available, cause they would rather spend their money in a more effective way to satisfy their tastes.
On the other hand, we can never say a company is making too much money for something they sell to argue that they can afford to loose some. What the argument of this post is defending, and I think rightfully, is that at this point piracy is not hurting the movie business, it could even make it earn more.

Lucretious (profile) says:


#28, are you shitting me?

There are entire websites, many run by conservatives but also many run by democrats and far left liberals who go into great detail on Moores shenanigans. The guy actually does more damage to the credibility of the left than he’s done to help. He’s a fact manipulating scumbag who plays on maudlin emotions while ignoring glaring facts that don’t jibe with his socialist agenda. The US healthcare system desperately needs to be addressed and a movie exposing it’s shortcomings and abuses could do worlds of good but all Moore manages to do is set himself up to be the center of attention due to his amateurish one-sided editorializing. Like Fahrenheit 9-11 there was more than enough fuckery for him to expose that he didn’t need to make up “facts” or manipulate the viewer like a retarded school child. In hindsight the number one thing people remember about that movie is Moore’s name and what the controversies were and not the content of what we saw

Of all people, Kurt Loder from MTV does a decent job of summarizing Moore’s shortcomings in his review of Sicko. I suggest you read it and put down the Kool-Aide.

Anonymous of Course says:


I’ve been self employed and worked for companies large
and small. Everyone in the USA gets health care.
The worst situation to be in is working with no health
benefits from your employer. You pay though the nose.
Many people qualify for the federal programs medicade
and medicare as well as state run programs. There are
charity programs run by cities and also the Catholic
hospitals (probably other as well.) Yes charity works
and it should be no more or less demeaning than taking
money from the state.

Yeah in many cases it’s subsitance care, crises
intervention but in EVERY system the people with more
$$ fare better. Canadians who can afford it cross the
border for by-pass surgery because they don’t want to
die waiting for their own system to deliver. Other
state run systems have there problems as well.

The principal thing that needs fixing in the USA is
cost controls and nobody wants that if it degrades
their care so it’s a touchy issue.

The uninsured are not uncared for. The system works well
but has problems with cost controls for various reasons.
One of which is fear of litigation by doctors. Another is
really horrible billing systems from hospitals who are not
used to having any charges questioned.

I know this because I’ve been uninsured while having
cardiac problems. I think Moore’s case is made by
picking out the exceptions.

Overcast says:

Come on already! If he’d just released it on the internet, he wouldn’t use any materials – and save $ on gas for shipping the DVDs to the stores.

True.. and what about that ‘Eco’ concert they are doing? How much wattage do amplifiers and spot lights use?

Far more than I use at home, that’s for certain.

The fix for health care seems simple to me – leave the existing system alone and just open free clinics for those without insurance – what would be so complicated about that? Then the Government wouldn’t have to pay insurance companies – they would just pay the staff direct.

Guess that’s too logical of a solution…

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