Oh Look, Hollywood Had Yet Another Record Year At The Box Office

from the but-piracy-is-killing-the-industry dept

It seems that we report something like this each and every year, but once again, it looks like Hollywood has set a record at the box office, even as it continues to whine pitifully about how “piracy” is destroying its business.

The trick apparently — and I know, this is crazy — is to Make Good Movies. Shocking, I know.

“Going down the list of studios, they all had great movies that kept people coming back to the theaters all year long,” said Nikki Rocco, president of distribution at Universal

What a concept.

Of course, some will argue that the box office is only a part of the industry’s revenue — and that’s absolutely true. Of course, to argue about declines in home video revenue is pretty disingenuous since the industry fought incredibly hard to block that revenue stream from ever existing. Besides, as with the box office, we’re seeing that when studios (gasp!) produce good content and make it easy and convenient to watch at home for a reasonable price and without painful restrictions, audiences seem to jump on board.

It’s almost as if… the problem has never been “piracy” but the fact that the studios have spent years resisting providing consumers with good alternatives…

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Comments on “Oh Look, Hollywood Had Yet Another Record Year At The Box Office”

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Christopher Best (profile) says:

Compete With Free

Reminds me. I was listening to the second beta episode of Cordkillers, and they were discussing the 2013 “most pirated” list. Once again, Game of Thrones was at the top, but a surprising entry (to the producers) was The Walking Dead. Why was this surprising? Because they actually made the show available for free via streaming on a website. And yet, even with them offering a free alternative, people pirated it.

The producer’s takeaway? They said to them, this meant that no matter what, some people are just going to pirate. Honestly, that’s probably a useful lesson if they take it to heart: No matter how much blood/sweat/tears/money you waste on trying to stop people, some people are just going to pirate your stuff anyway.

But, for me, this really should drive home the idea that for many people price is not the sole deciding factor for why they pirate something. The “pirate experience” is obviously somehow superior in some other way than simply being free.

Maybe they should concentrate on trying to figure out why that is.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Compete With Free

I’ve used their website to try and watch The Walking Dead. That website is crap. You can only watch the most recent episode, the stream is jumpy, and their player is glitched to hell and back.

The takeaway should be that they need to fix their damn website. I’d much rather record the episode, edit out the commercials, and watch it cleanly at my leisure.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Compete With Free

Maybe they should concentrate on trying to figure out why that is.

It’s no mystery. I don’t know about The Walking Dead specifically, but in my experience, there has yet to be a single movie or TV company that has managed to make a streaming service that is actually good. Most are nearly completely unusable.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: Compete With Free

I dunno, I’ve been able to stream CW’s Arrow without much trouble on their website. Seriously, I can count the amount of times that streaming site (at least for Arrow anyway) has glitched on me with one hand. And if I want to find an episode that aired 6+ weeks ago, I can stream it somewhere else/torrent the damn thing if necessary.

Of course, when I try to use Showcase.ca’s streaming service, it is… skittish, for lack of a better word at the moment.

But the majority of TV companies who provide decent streaming services are definitely in the minority right now.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Compete With Free

4OD in the UK is an excellent service, you can watch every episode of all of their shows and with the help of ad block plus you can skip the few ads they stick where the break used to be.

I’m hoping that one day the bbc follow suit and allow us to watch the back catalogue that we as tax payers funded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Compete With Free

I can help answer that one, easily. Two options:

1) Go to their website. Deal with the inevitable fiddlyness of getting TWD to play correctly. Deal with unskippable ads before, during, and after the show. Deal with it crapping out at some point since too many (read: a couple hundred) others are trying to stream as well, and in the process, the ad counter resets and plays more ads. And starts over from the beginning. And through all that, deal with it being low-resolution, so AMC can save on streaming costs.

2) My media box DLs it automatically to my media server within about 30 mins of it airing (or even earlier if it leaks), high-res, commercials cut out, shows up in Plex with the show’s name, picture, run-time, title, and synopsis all automatically added in, and when I’m done watching, if I like it, I have it forever.

Given those choices, I’d gladly pay a LOT more for #2 than #1, yet they’re the same price.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Compete With Free

More than that, some people are paying for VPNs and proxies in order to download copyrighted material. “Piracy” isn’t even necessarily free. When you have would-be customers who are paying someone else in order to access your products, the argument that “people just want something for free” really sounds stupid and unsupported.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Compete With Free

Very true. I’ll say that I do pay money every month for what I use to pirate. It’s just so much cheaper than the alternative and the result is a much better product, that it’s far and away worth it.

It’s almost like, if the networks put out their shows for DL for a reasonable all-you-can-eat price in a form customers want, they could kill piracy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Compete With Free

There is always the question of spreading the word: If something has been offered for only a short while and the marketing has been running on mostly normal TV it still lacks market penetration online.

Also, pirates are as much creatures of habits as everybody else. Why change it if it ain’t broke? In fact: Why look for a legal alternative if your illegal source is decently safe and works well?

To fight piracy you need an excellent service and a reasonable price. If that doesn’t work, squeezing illegal sources is a strategy.

This situation has been turned upside down for far too long. Now the alienated will seek every opportunity to avoid supporting the mainstream conglomerations. The only solution is to get the services up without the exclusive deals and non-sense clauses. Before that time, the alienation will only get worse from the squeezing.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Compete With Free

they actually made the show available for free via streaming on a website.

Not that anyone was aware of it, of course. I’m a fan of the show, and I didn’t even know they were doing this until after they stopped. I waited to watch the entire season on Netflix.

Instead of taking away the lesson that “some people are just going to pirate,” they should take away the lesson that “convenient” trumps “free.” And “convenient” includes things like “not making people go to a website that they may not even know about.”

Another lesson they should probably take away is that “piracy” does not equate to a loss of traditional viewers. After all, the Walking Dead season premiere had the highest number of viewers for any AMC show (over 16 million) – including the finale of Breaking Bad.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Compete With Free


The reason I “pirate” things (or more like used to – I rarely care enough to bother anymore) is entirely, 100%, about convenience.

The original Napster was more convenient than buying CDs, and being free was only part of that.

Having to pay for something is inherently inconvenient; there’s no way around that. Having to watch (or, for banner-type ads, load) ads is also inherently inconvenient. But one inconvenience can be offset by another convenience, or by a sufficient value-add in another form (though the definition of “sufficient” is a bit of a sticky question).

I would be glad to pay for something rather than get it for free, if the for-pay option provides the best convenience – or, at bare minimum, is not worse than the free options. But that is rarely, if ever, the case.

(I’m at a bit of a disadvantage there in that I strongly dislike streaming video, to the point where I will accept considerable inconvenience to avoid it – and I even more strongly dislike DRM, or other attempts to seize control over what I can do, and will accept even more inconvenience in order to avoid that. But there are many people who do not feel the same way, but for whom convenience is still the key factor.)

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Compete With Free

It might be best to add something here…

The Walking Dead isn’t available overseas and for some people, it’s far more convenient to download the episode to talk about it when it comes out.

Compare this to Dr Who where they decide to wait two weeks for the American episode over the British one?

Guess which group pirates more?

The thing about globalization is that the street moves both ways. Someone in Norway who can’t access the show but wants to talk about it has more incentives to download to enjoy and partake in the conversations than giving him $5 access to Netflix, cheaper broadband, and ensuring that ads go to you along with legal services for them.

Piracy has never been a moral issue. It’s always been a service issue.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Compete With Free

I agree with your points, and I don’t know specifics with that particular show, I just have a few extra comments:

“Because they actually made the show available for free via streaming on a website”

The problem here is that if you’;re interested in reality, you have to look deeper at what they mean by “available”.

The first problem is obvious – many of these piracy statistics aren’t produced with regional data in mind. That is, just because AMC offered the show for free, that doesn’t mean it was available outside the US. People in many other countries want to access the show, and often they cannot do so via legal means at the same times the US are able to – pirate sites have no such restrictions, of course. To understand the statistics, you have to see who exactly is performing the downloads, and what alternatives they actually have. If people outside the US are pirating but the stream was only in the US, well there’s the problem.

Then, what were the other restrictions? Time – was the content delayed or only available for a short window? Format – was it loaded with DRM or restricted to certain types of devices (even something as simple as requiring Flash could get many pirating)? Was the show only available through a PC web browser, or was it available on consoles, handhelds, Roku, etc.? Are we just talking about new episodes being pirated, or did people download previous seasons to catch up on prior season that couldn’t be streamed for free? There’s many questions that can greatly complicate the reasoning behind people pirating, but it’s almost certain that the reason was “because it’s easier”.

“No matter how much blood/sweat/tears/money you waste on trying to stop people, some people are just going to pirate your stuff anyway.”

…which has always been the case. The only way to reduce piracy is to allow people to access the content in the way that suits them, not offer a restriction that makes the pirated version more valuable. It was the same in the VHS days, people just didn’t have the same resources to access the content normally restricted to them as they do now.

“Maybe they should concentrate on trying to figure out why that is.”

Hopefully they’re starting to realise that the lies about price being the only factor are just that, and they’ll look at addressing the needs of their actual audience rather than the convenient fiction they’ve constructed. It’s rather saddening that something that’s been blindingly obvious to the actual consumers of the content for years should prove to be a surprise to the producers.

Marcin O says:

Re: Compete With Free

Please not that this making available for free via streaming was only for US residents and even not all of them AFAIK (need to have cable?). I know it’s hard to believe but there are some people living outside the US and they like to watch good stuff too. And they have a far inferior legal offer to choose from to boot.

S. T. Stone says:

Sooner or later, Hollywood will catch onto this idea of “good movies make people go to the theaters”.

When that happens, you’ll see nothing but Adam Sandler movies flooding the silver screens across America.

I can’t think of a better way to ensure a poor box office year (and, thus, justification for the “but piracy!” argument).

Now, the real question: how many of those Adam Sandler movies will feature Rob Schneider?

MondoGordo (profile) says:

Re: Sooner or later ...

Hollywood will catch onto this idea of “good movies make people go to the theaters”.

You Sir, are an optimist…

When that happens, you’ll see nothing but Adam Sandler movies flooding the silver screens across America.

or possibly a pessimist…

I can’t think of a better way to ensure a poor box office year

who is cruel! (truthful, but cruel!) otoh there is always the possibility of them releasing nothing

Now, the real question: how many of those Adam Sandler movies will feature Rob Schneider?

Unfortunately, probably all of them !!

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You are correct, for most people it simply doesn’t matter.

In my mind an even better reason to provide HD to those who would prefer it without a lot of cumbersome DRM or restrictions, that only serve to make the pirated version(s) more desirable.

Hollywood is so busy trying to lock down content (a literally impossible task) that they totally ignore what their customers want.

Heck worse case to get past the DRM is crack the case on your TV and make a couple of connections after the decoders. Full access to un-encrypted content. It isn’t hard, and only takes a little knowledge about electronics. (Heck you can get instructions all over on the net for many different TVs). Then you are free to record, re-encode, send to non-DRM devices…

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Audio and video quality don’t have to be perfection for the vast majority of things. Why would you need to watch Futurama in HD? And even the things that are better viewed in HD, most people won’t even notice the compression artifacts.

In all honesty, if you’re that concerned about quality, you probably shouldn’t be downloading the compressed BluRay rips ether.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Wrong, a video file has to be of at least watchable quality, many streaming sites do not have even that, and file quality is amazing even a 480 resolution file is amazing to watch on a 40″ tv although a 720 is the top quality i download. I mean if i has a 1gb download speed i would be downloading blu ray files to see what it is like but i dont think the difference in quality justifies downloading one file when i can download 20 files in quality that is more than clear enough, in fact is more clear than almost any content on tv even HD channels that are compressed so much they resemble some 480p files..

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Wrong, a video file has to be of at least watchable quality

I think his point was that “watchable quality” is a threshold way, way below “HD quality”. Netflix has watchable quality. Resolution isn’t the end all and be all of quality, either. I’ve seen very good quality videos that were 240, and terrible quality videos that were 2160.

charles says:

Re: Why pirate when I can get Netflix?

Why Netflix? You pay your eight bucks a month but that’s not enough to access their catalogue. Try disabling your browsing and download history, and/or your search and form history. You’ll never see a Netflix movie. You’ve already paid for the service but they insist on making all your internet traffic available to harvest and sell to whoever they want to sell it to. Something a little less than transparent about this business model.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

That’s still not ssc giving them money. That’s just ssc not giving them attention

Technically true. however, in this day and age giving them attention is giving them money.

It’s like when people talk about the “free” services from Google, etc. Not a single one of those big-name services are free. You are paying them with your data, which they turn into money.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

A real statement is to do what ssc suggests: don’t watch at all.

An even better statement is to watch the ones that aren’t produced by copyright maximalists.

There are plenty of channels on (say) YouTube that are run by independent artists, and watching there benefits those artists far more than watching on cable, Hulu, or Netflix.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“What straw man Paul? “

All the ones you mentioned, including but not limited to the easily disproven falsehood that people don’t pirate movies that are currently shown at the cinema and the ridiculous attempts at personal attacks on people who disagree with you for imagined indiscretions. The simple fact that many of the people you attempt to insult are actually paying customers still eludes your limited intellect.

“The fact is that you really can’t freeload at the theater and that segment of the market continues to grow. Makes perfect sense to me.”

Leaving apart the fact that you can “freeload” the movies that are on at the cinema (unless you’re finally admitting that cinemas succeed by selling the scarce finite experiences and not the downloadable infinite, in which case welcome to the argument made here for many years?), are you aware that the theatrical portion of the market is not the only one experiencing growth? Maybe you’d better do some more research before spouting your usual bollocks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

you really can’t freeload at the theater and that segment of the market continues to grow.

Every single major movie that comes out have a pirate cycle, screeners, CAMrips, DVDrips, Blurayrips, telesyncs in that order.

Pirates even figure it out how to use the theaters own FM and infrared audio outputs to get better sound, most good camrips today are Frankeinstein creations using some impressive techniques that although being badly applied probably because of lack of the knowledge necessary to make it work better demonstrates that some of them are actually near the forefront of what science can do to images.

Camrips today are horrible, but if the pirates get close to things like confocal microscopy to understand how 2 images used together can actually deghost the entire picture, or stacking focus, stacking denoise, auto luma detection and correction, etc, oh boy theaters will have to strip search customers to get rid of that threat, because then any image sample becomes a data point that can be used to recreate the original in all its glory.

Wouldn’t be funny if the pirates get to a point where they are not only able to recreate the original but actually retouch it to make it better using only shitty samples?

I feel there are some research papers that can be write on the subject and the uses for it would be widespread, it starts as a plaything, but image what the army wouldn’t give to software that could increase the quality of the images of its drones, pirates actually are doing the heavy lifting trying to figure out ways to improve image acquisition, analysis and refinement and is damn impressive where they are today technologically and even more impressive what that means for the future.

Would law enforcement not like to have the means to actually refine images from shitty surveillance cameras?

[hyperbole]The war on piracy may have negative effects for law enforcement and security forces, we all gonna die if we don’t let pirates do their thing, national security will be compromised[/hyperbole]

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

So you’re trying to disprove an accusation of a strawman attack by engaging in a strawman attack? Classy!

Right here was the first one (this thread): “because you freeloaders haven’t figured a way to sneak into the theater and watch for free.”

You can’t seem to make a comment without accusing everyone of being pirates, freeloaders, or thieves. That’s pure strawman. Now, stop lying.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Even a cursory glance at available figures proves that things are on par with previous years, although I don’t know where he’s getting the 25% figure from (boxofficemojo.com shows around 60-70% international for most major movies, some go as low as 50% domestic). There’s certainly nothing in currently available figures to indicate a dip, although the industry he’s trying to defend are of course very bad at offering accurate figures publicly for most markets.

I’ll just guess it’s the usual attempt at misdirection when he realises that he can’t refute the facts in the article – if all else fails, name call and imply there’s inaccuracies despite there being no evidence to indicate any such thing (AC – feel free to provide said evidence rather than wild speculation if you have such a thing – which I doubt).

Just Sayin' says:


“Of course, to argue about declines in home video revenue is pretty disingenuous since the industry fought incredibly hard to block that revenue stream from ever existing. “

Come on Mike, are you serious?

One of the reasons why movie ticket prices haven’t increased as fast as they would of otherwise is that other forms of distribution became available. Movie companies didn’t rail against VCR PLAYERS, they railed against recorders. I know it’s a subtle difference, but a really wide one. They wanted the playback market, they didn’t want people to have the ability to make copies.

Now, without that marketplace, movie theater tickets would likely be in the $15 – $20 range now, and there is all the pressure in the world to move ticket prices up now, with piracy decimating the secondary markets that often bring in the income that makes a movie profitable or at least able to pay for itself.

Those secondary markets include movie channels, streaming, rentals, and the like. When each of those is hurt or completely killed off by piracy, that income stream disappears. The money doesn’t magically appear somewhere else in the movie food chain. It’s gone somewhere else and lost – but the people still got the product, just for free.

So if you are going to try to make an argument, try to be honest on the effects on both sides. The effects of piracy are significant, but I guess you don’t want to see it.

peopleagainstheft (profile) says:

Cast logic aside!

Mike, have you ever studied logic? Just because total box office went up doesn’t mean box office (and home video) wouldn’t be higher without piracy. Studio revenues are affected by a lot of things – you’re only isolating one input. The GDP of the united states is growing even though there are burglaries . . . does that mean burglaries are not a problem that should be addressed? Dumb argument.
And the studios did not stand in the way of home entertainment – that’s another piece of the mythology. The studios objected to the inclusion of a time-operated recorder in conjunction with a playback device. Turned out no one bothered to program their VCRs anyway because the technology was awful, and they were used as playback devices, which is what the studios wanted anyway.
Why don’t people on this site check your facts or your logic?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Cast logic aside!

You miss the point, the studios/*AA’s are not just claiming that they ‘could have done better’ if it weren’t for piracy, they’re claiming, and have been for decades now, that piracy is absolutely decimating their business, to the point that they need special laws put in place to ‘protect’ them. And yet, year after year, they continue to make record breaking profits, despite the ‘horrors of piracy’.

There’s only so many times you can cry wolf before people begin to just ignore you, and when all the evidence presented demonstrates that they’re doing great, the ‘Oh woe is us, piracy has all but destroyed us, and only new and harsher laws will save us now!’ is shown to be the blatant lie that it is.

As for the ‘the were only objecting to a particular feature of it, they were fine with the technology’… yeah, when you’ve got a quote like the following…

‘I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone’. – Jack Valenti

… it’s pretty safe to say they couldn’t be bothered to make that distinction. As far as they were concerned, the whole technology was a problem, and one they wanted to see eliminated.

Also, I must say, with a name like that, you really shouldn’t be on the side of the studios(both music and movie), as it’d be hard to find a bigger pack of thieves, considering all the myriad little ‘accounting tricks’ they regularly use to screw creators out of their money.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Cast logic aside!

“And the studios did not stand in the way of home entertainment…. Turned out no one bothered to program their VCRs anyway because the technology was awful”

Why do you guys have to create complete fictions in order to address any points? Are the facts of the argument so difficult to address that you have to create a fantasy world to be able to retort?

i.e. – yes, the studios stood in the way of home entertainment on multiple different occasions over the years (not just in trying to block time-shifting with a VCR, though that’s the big case that proves they make a lot of money when they’re not playing King Canute) and many, many millions of people managed to record movies and shows without any problem, no matter what lazy stand up comedians were telling you.

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