Is Avatar Pirate Proof?
After a strong opening weekend at the box office, Fox are hailing Dances With Thunder-Smurfs as Hollywoodâ€™s first pirate-proof movie. TorrentFreak points to a Fox press release quoting studio rep Eden Wright who says â€œpiracy will play a much smaller role in stealing profits from [Avatar] due to the technological hurdles it imposesâ€.
Avatarâ€™s weekend take at the box office seems to support this theory. According to Variety, it took $77 million domestically and $242.5 million worldwide, the fifth best film opening of all time. 3D accounted for 58% of the gross.
Having been blown away by Avatar in 3-D, itâ€™s hard to imagine watching it in 2-D, let alone trying to get the same experience from a crappy pirate copy filmed on a camera phone. This didnâ€™t stop 500,000 downloads of Avatar from p2p sites over the weekend as well, but as is the situation with music, itâ€™s not clear whether downloads are helping or hindering the box office. Hollywood went bat-shit back in April when Wolverine was leaked online a month before release, only to see it top the box office and beat the tally of the next nine best performing films combined. In recent weeks the independent film Ink also saw illegal downloads help rather than hinder the film, with its creators even thanking pirates for their help. â€œWe donâ€™t know exactly where this will all leadâ€ they wrote, â€œbut the exposure is unquestionably a positive thing.â€
If 3-D continues to up box office revenues despite the pirates, itâ€™s good news for film makers everywhere, and thereâ€™s more. While the web is disrupting the movie business, itâ€™s also allowing filmmakers to much create deeper connections with fans. As weâ€™ve discussed here before, stretching the narrative of a film across the web using transmedia storytelling is creating all kinds of new revenue streams for franchises large and small, while creating experiences impossible for fans to only interact with via pirate copies.
Encouraging and incorporating user-generated content into a story is another pirate-beating strategy â€“ one we havenâ€™t seen widely used by the big studios yet, but one that has serious potential. If you create a universe fans feel comfortable playing in, theyâ€™ll defend it. J.K Rowling discovered this when she sued the author of The Harry Potter Lexicon in 2007. Many (myself included) initially thought the legions of fan creating Potter content of their own would revolt against her for going after one of their own â€“ as the lexicon had been put together by one of the most prominent members of the HP fan community. But they didnâ€™t. The fans chose to defend Rowling. As a general rule sheâ€™d been extremely supportive of fan-sites and fan-fiction, and the community recognized that. She ended up winning the legal battle and keeping her fans.
The triple-threat of new tech, transmedia and new forms of collaboration is good news for creative endeavors of all kinds. Itâ€™s never been simpler to create a copy of a movie, song or almost anything else. But itâ€™s also easier than itâ€™s ever been to build an experience that makes piracy a moot point. Great stories are as important as ever. But now the way we put those stories out there has to be just as creative as the story weâ€™re telling.