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Movies Media Businesses The Almighty Buck

Record Box Office Indicates MPAA 'Piracy Problem' Hot Air 244

Posted by Zonk
from the tell-me-another dept.
Kinescope writes "The motion picture industry has said that its profits are at risk due to piracy, but a record-setting 2007 box office has some wondering if the industry is crying 'wolf.' Last year, the US box office totaled $9.63 billion, a 5.4% increase over 2006. 'Piracy is so bad, according to the MPAA, that we need special legislation to target the dastardly college pirates who are destroying the business. It's so bad that Weekly Reader subscribers will learn about the $7 billion a year "lost" to Internet piracy. It's so bad that the MPAA wants ISPs to ignore years of common carrier law and the promises of "safe harbor" and start filtering their traffic, looking for copyright violations. The real world isn't quite this simple, of course. It turns out that the MPAA's college numbers were off by a factor of three, a revelation that came after years of hiding the study's methodology but continuing to lobby Congress with its numbers.'"
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Record Box Office Indicates MPAA 'Piracy Problem' Hot Air

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  • by brxndxn (461473) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:34PM (#22657046)
    Seriously.. record box office receipts with movies as bad as they are? What the fuck is the MPAA complaining about?

    They make utter shit.. and people flock to pay for it! I can think of maybe one decent movie in the past few years.. Blood Diamond.

  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:34PM (#22657050) Homepage Journal
    Jeeze, there were few movies that were even -watchable- much less -good- last year, and they still set records?

    That's not so much 'hot air' as 'complete bullshit' then.
  • "Profits?" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:47PM (#22657216)
    I was under the impression that movies haven't made a profit since shortly before the introduction of talkies. How can the movie industry "lose" that which their accountants deny existed in the first place?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:56PM (#22657340)
    What do you expect from an industry that produces products that gross many times more than they cost to make, but still supposedly fail to turn a profit? "The Lord of the Rings" movies apparently grossed ~$6 billion, but didn't make a profit, all thanks to Hollywood accounting [wikipedia.org]. Why should it be different for their other numbers, whether their "lost profits", stats on movie piracy, or any other number they decide to make up for the need at hand?

  • Re:summary wrong (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tsiangkun (746511) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:12PM (#22657488) Homepage
    Yeah, I quit buying DVDs and subscribed to a delivery service. The MPAA wants me to believe that legally I am not allowed to copy the movies for viewing on my prefered device at my prefered time and location, regardless of if I buy the DVD or not.

    Since buying the movie on DVD gets me no additional rights, I see no point in buying. My movie collection can grow quicker by having new movies delivered to my house on a regular basis.
  • Re:summary wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by khallow (566160) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:12PM (#22657506)

    Indeed. DVD sales in 2007 were down from 2006, and DVDs are where all the margin on motion pictures is. The theatrical distribution is really sortof a loss leader to promote the DVD and follow-on media, like DVD, television and video games (an industry which outstrips the film industry in revenues, I might add).

    That depends on the film. Disney in particular seems to have very strong follow-on media sales. But I'd say that the characterization isn't true in general. There are films that do as you say, there are direct to video films that make no income at all from ticket sales, there are films that are make most of their income from ticket sales, and there are films that seem to be loss leaders in all of their markets and only generate bad publicity for the studio. :-S

    But however you view it, there is big money in DVDs and other follow-on media. The movie industry does have considerable incentive to try to get people to pay for the product.
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:23PM (#22657634)
    Why doesn't the quality of their product get factored in as well?

    I think, because they don't know how to make good products any longer. More correctly, I suppose, the people in charge have become so risk-averse that they don't dare take a chance on something that isn't sufficiently "mainstream". At least the junk they regularly churn out does, on average, turn a profit. Not as much as they would like, of course, and they want to eliminate copyright infringement to improve the bottom line without having to take chances on releasing anything better. Kind of like Microsoft and Product Activation/WGA: squeeze a few extra bucks out of those people that will pay if they have to, and don't have the technical skill to bypass your protection system.

    Even if they achieve the Holy Grail of perfectly controlled content distribution (an unattainable goal in any event) I don't think it will have as much effect as they seem to think it will.
  • Re:summary wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iluvcapra (782887) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:26PM (#22657678)

    there are films that are make most of their income from ticket sales, and there are films that seem to be loss leaders in all of their markets and only generate bad publicity for the studio. :-S

    Even really big, successful, good-press films lose money; remember that stars and directors and producers cut most of the gross box-office receipts up front, in such a way that films like Forrest Gump and Hook STILL haven't turned a profit, despite grossing several multiples of their budget on screens, because such a huge percentage of the gross is redirected to the above-the-line talent. The guild deals on royalties and residuals for writers and actors also are at their most dis-advantageous for the studio for theatrical; the DVD is much better for the studios and distributors in terms of their deal.

    I challenge you seriously, to find any film this side ofReservoir Dogs that made more profit in theaters than on the shelf at Amazon and Wal*mart.

  • not quite so simple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:30PM (#22657720) Homepage
    A 5% increase (when inflation is 3+%) isn't much to write home about. Up front let me say I only go to at most 1 or 2 movies a year since, well, most of them suck and then there is netflix. That said, it would be a lot more helpful to have not only same screen data (ie, same store sales) but also to adjust it for inflation. That is the only way to have even a remote idea of where things stand. Significantly harder to quantify is the changing nature of what people do in their free time. Growing up in the late 70s/early 80s there wasn't much to do besides a) get drunk b) get high c) to to a movie.
  • Re:summary wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @01:48AM (#22660386) Journal
    Hollywood accounting [wikipedia.org] is the term you are looking for,and is EXACTLY why I could not care less if pirates steal the building right out from under them. Look at how many artists have had to sue for YEARS, just to get paid pennies on the dollar? It took Meatloaf, what, twelve years just to get paid for Bat Out of Hell I? Or Peter Jackson having to sue because,according to the studio, LOTR "didn't turn a profit",WTF?? Why should I care about a bunch that buys of our politicians by saying "we need to protect the artists" and then screw them for every cent they can? The truly ironic part is you have a bunch of thieves screaming about pirates. It sounds like something from a Monty Python sketch.
  • by mr_matticus (928346) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @01:54AM (#22660418)
    Movie tickets have actually kept pace with inflation pretty well. Compared to what I paid in 1990, movie tickets are only about a dollar overpriced now. Cinema equipment is also much better and facilities nicer (albeit sometimes sticky), so I'm okay with that. The ticket price has doubled from $6 to $12 here. The student discount didn't even exist back then, or it was promotional. Students went to the matinees if they wanted to save a buck.

    What has gone down, however, is the relative price of a video rental. They used to be the same price as a movie ticket, and they've fallen quite a bit as ticket prices have increased. As it stands, a 5% increase in revenue without adjusting for inflation is lackluster at best and possibly right at par.

    It hasn't been my experience that theaters raise prices all that often, at least around here. They tend to move in $0.50 or $1 every year or two, which isn't really all that unfair. But now that DVD rentals are here (and BD, if you've got the player) and the age of home theaters has arrived, the increase in quality and decrease in price has made it pretty compelling. Staying in and doing "movie night" can be a good experience these days. 20 years ago, not so much.

    I still personally feel like being at home doesn't compare, even though I have an extremely nice (read: jealousy-inducing) setup. It's about the experience, not only of the film, but socially. It's a different kind of night with friends than having them over, which is a different kind of fun. Different strokes, though, of course.
  • Re:summary wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vux984 (928602) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:33AM (#22660784)
    We made money by selling 30 cents of popcorn and 10 cents worth of soda for $5.50. The numbers may have changed a little now that tickets are $10, but I'm sure the percentages are similar.

    Now its 30cents of popcorn for $4.50 and 10cents of pop for $5.50, or you can get the pop+popcorn combo for $9.00, and for $11.50 it comes with a chocolate bar too...

    Really, they should just jack the base ticket price by a dollar and include a small popcorn with every ticket. That will be more profitable than selling overpriced popcorn to a fraction of the guests, and it will increase demand for the over-priced pop, which should be available for another $2.00 for 12-16oz. (350-500ml) (still overpriced, but not obscenely overpriced)

    And of course let people 'upgrade' their complimentary popcorn to a larger size for a fee. And the people who don't want the popcorn? They don't have to claim it. After all its only 10 cents worth of popcorn and if they bitch about the value, you can tell them that, and offer to give them a dime refund if they fill out some forms...
  • by patio11 (857072) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @03:49AM (#22660830)
    Point me to a listing of top downloaded songs, videos, or games which contains *one* work created prior to 1997. Go on, I'll wait.

    The mass entertainment industry produces disposable culture and markets to create a perpetual demand for the new culture. That is what the pirates pirate, because that is what the pirates (and essentially everybody else) wants.

    Let's look at the data:

    http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/news/2007/12/YE_best_of_p2p [wired.com]

    Top Songs of 2007
    1. Shop Boyz, "Party Like A Rock Star"
    2. Akon, "I Wanna Luv U"
    3. Sean Kingston, "Beautiful Girls"
    4. Mims, "This Is Why I'm Hot"
    5. Akon, "Don't Matter"
    6. T-Pain, "Bartender"
    7. Soulja Boy, "Crank Dat Soulja Boy"
    8. Justin Timberlake, "My Love"
    9. DJ Unk, "Walk It Out"
    10. Jim Jones, "We Fly High"

    A shocker! Long copyrights cause piracy of songs out less than one year! Clearly the public domain is being impoverished by being denied the heartrending artistic stylings of Justni Timberlake, forever locked up by the evil copyright lawyers!

    If you look at movies, you'll find the same thing: piracy is very much a recent-blockbuster phenomenon.

    Top Movies of 2007
    1. Resident Evil: Extinction
    2. Pirates of The Caribbean: At World's End
    3. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
    4. Ratatouille
    5. Superbad
    6. Beowulf
    7. Transformers
    8. American Gangster
    9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
    10. Stardust

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @06:13AM (#22661400) Journal

    The problem is that the content products like movies, music even books try to pretend they are normal products until it comes time to actually discuss profit margins and production costs.

    You would say that if a movie cost X to produce then if it made a box office result of X+Y that Y would be profit? It don't work like that, extremely successfull movies that break box-office records can nonetheless show a LOSS. Hollywood style accounting would get you arrested in any other field, but somehow we tolerate it because... well you got to wonder why it is tolerated.

    It seems rather convenient that the movie industry is allowed to just inflate its costs on all of its products until they rather handily do not show a profit. Say I create an item, a painting, I put itup for auction, then as the price goes higher and higher I keep increasing the costs of the paint I used so that even if my simple pencil drawing started out with a cost of a penny, if it sells for a million, it cost me a million and a penny to produce.

    Idiotic? Well it happens all the time in movies, just look at the Spiderman movies and Lord of the Rings trilogy. Products that OBVIOUSLY had more revenue then cost but that is NOT what the final account says.

    I know this will shock americans, but it is high time the state steps in and regulates the content industry. Offcourse that won't happen, any politician who dares regulate hollywood will be torn to shreds by the media.

    And we swallow it, what is the favorite show of Slashdot? Futurama? How many eps show rampant anti-piracy propoganda? A show were turning humans into a softdrink is perfectly fine, but copyright infringement is an evil that deserves an entire episode.

    We are controlled by the media, as long as the media can set public opinion they can abuse this by making sure politicians who do what they want them to do get noticed, and the ones who go against get buried.

    Oh and don't think for a second that the content industry cares one shit about censorship. Ratings, a fine for a nipple? All part of charade. In exchange for allowing Hollywood to make its own economic rules, the politicians are allowed to introduce simplistic and ineffective self regulation.

    And no, this is NOT a conspiracy theorie, there are no shadowy meetings in which this is arranged, it is just how things work. Conspiracy theorists are dreamers, idealists who hope that there is a clear enemy who no matter how powerfull can ultimately be overcome one day.

    Real life don't work that way, there is just an understanding. Politicians leave the content producers alone, and the content producers won't tear them a new hole in the public eye.

    Ever wonder why we think Kerry was a stiff, Al Gore to intellectual? Who do you think put that image in our minds? Watch the media very carefully and see how every person who is the smallest threath to the way things are done is assasinated.

    Just imagine how you would react to a Jay Leno monologue about a senator who wishes to put the IRS in charge of examing hollywoods finanicials. How many seconds do you think he would need to tear this guy down and the audience swallowing it hook line and sinker?

    The politicians KNOW this, the media controls the public so they can never control them.

    Some people believe a free press is needed to keep goverment in check, but who keeps the media in check? Examine the politics in England and how newspaper support for one party or the other can swing the election. The media is the watchdog, but who watches the watcher? The public? Yeah right, they only know what the media tells them.

  • Re:summary wrong (Score:3, Interesting)

    by FlopEJoe (784551) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @08:46AM (#22662188)

    Optimists say there are about 30 original stories out there. Pessimists say less.
    Well... there's a difference. No one begrudges when they reuse the typical boy meets girl story if there's interesting subplots along the way. But remaking old TV shows like The Honeymooners, Bewitched, and Mission Impossible isn't reusing an over all plot... it's just lazy and fear of making something original. There have been some weeks where over 80% of the movies in theaters are either sequels or (bad) remakes of books, comics, and TV shows.
  • Re:Old News, but ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by spyrochaete (707033) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @09:26AM (#22662576) Homepage Journal
    I think it just goes to show what crooked pushovers the Conservative party is. Bev Oda spent tax dollars wining and dining her generous campaign contributors from the movie industry, Stephen Harper folded like an origami crane for Arnold by pushing through that ridiculous anti-camcording law in record time, and Jim Prentice continues to flip flop on his Canadian DMCA which is perhaps the most vocally contested bill in Canadian history.

    Maybe it's only incidental that these most recent, most egregious examples were all committed by members of the Conservative party, but they are absolutely notorious for sucking up to the Bush administration. I can't help but contrast this limp-wristed pandering with Chretien's refusal to join America in the Iraq invasion.

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