Piracy is bad for the film business, right?
It might not be that simple. According to a recently updated study, it depends on what kind of movie you’re talking about. Looking at box office and digital download sales since the January 2012 closure of the popular digital sharing site Megaupload, researchers based in Copenhagen and Munich found that while blockbusters like The Avengers saw increased profits at the box office, mid-range and independent films were negatively impacted.
With indies and mid-range movies, the study suggests that when people have a positive experience watching a pirated movie, they’ll tell their friends about it who may be inclined to seek it out for themselves and pay for it. In the absence of a free option, those early adopters won’t go out and rent or buy the movie, they simply won’t watch it. The theory is, then, that not only are you losing the illegal downloaders, you’re losing their (potentially paying) network as well.
The blockbuster is the exception for obvious reasons. Awareness usually isn’t the problem with big budget tentpole projects, and the study calls out movies including The Avengers and the final installment of the Harry Potter franchise as proof positive that their box office profits benefitted from Megaupload’s closure.
The MPAA doesn’t agree with the study’s methodology and speculative conclusions, and issued the following statement.
EW contacted a number of distributors for comment, but has yet to hear back.