Last week America-based DVD rental site Netflix published a list detailing the top ten borrowed DVDs, a list that to some sites suggested certain things about the tastes and demographics of those doing the borrowing. Though considering the untidy business around Netflix deciding and then undeciding to ask their customers to pay twice for the same service, perhaps it makes sense to deflect attention.
In response, filesharing news website TorrentFreak collated its findings for the most downloaded and shared films since 2006, the year BitTorrent became the peer to peer behemoth it is today. Here’s the top five, with the number of downloads and, interestingly, the its worldwide box office gross:
1. Avatar (2009) – 21 million downloads, $2,782,275,172 worldwide box office
Daft but beautiful, the vast numbers of pirates enjoying the film on their desktops almost certainly saw it in cinemas too, the only film where over twenty million ‘lost sales’ wouldn’t even make a dent.
2. The Dark Knight (2008) – 19 million downloads, $1,001,921,825
Speaking of Dents…
3. Transformers (2007) – 19 million downloads, $708,709,780
One of the most eloquent arguments for dismantling the entire apparatus of the film industry. Not even Shia LaBoeuf’s empathy-black-hole punchbag of a face could stop the franchise taking almost $3bn worldwide. What crisis?
4. Inception (2010) – 18 million downloads, $825,408,570
Deceptively stupid, undeniably awesome. What confused me was why Ellen Page didn’t have a bigger part. OH SNAP
5. The Hangover (2009) – 17 million downloads, $467,483,912
I’m not even including a trailer. That film was bad and you should feel bad.
So a few things to take from the statistics, which you can read in full here: the movies most targeted by pirates tend to be ones that make obscene amounts of money at the box office, the exception being Kick-Ass, which still took close to $100m worldwide from a $30m budget. The most noticeable difference between it and the other films on the list is demographics: Kick-Ass is explicitly aimed at a young, comic-book reading and web-savvy audience who are far less likely to spend money on increasingly expensive cinema tickets when a free alternative is available.
But does a download necessarily represent a lost sale? It’s noticeable that no film released in 2011 makes the list: downloads keep going long after the film’s release, effectively taking the place of a DVD rental. A far more telling statistic would be – under the condition that filesharing was not an option – how many downloaders would see the film at all? How well would the Transformers sequels have performed if movie fans were unable to access repeat viewings of the originals? How good an advertising tool is filesharing?
The interesting thing about the Netflix and TorrentFreak list is how few (only Inception and The Departed) make it onto both, suggesting that the only common factor for twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings alike is Leonardo DiCaprio. So how will the industry change to take advantage of a young, cinema-going fanbase who also enjoy the freedoms of the internet? This is one of the key questions facing moviemakers, and one that is not going away.
This is by no means an exhaustive study, and debate is invaluable. Give us your tuppence-worth in the comments!
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