Could Piracy Save Cinemas and Slow Hollywood’s Streaming Growth?


As Hollywood’s major studios and digital companies further increase the number of new films hitting the streaming market, the binge revolution has not only altered the norms of movie creation and distribution, but it has also upended how movies are reviewed and consumed. Netflix is the clear leader in new movie production in Hollywood, releasing more films in 2020 than there are weeks in the year. But competitor Amazon is developing more original films for Prime Video at an fast clip.


But it isn’t just streamers who are turning up the volume. In order to stay competitive and retain subscribers, traditional studios such as Walt Disney Co. and Paramount Pictures are increasing their output of direct-to-streaming movies on their own platforms.


According to John Nolte of Breitbart, the same day digital streaming and cinema release is what may have hurt Black Widow:


The moment a studio title becomes digitally available (i.e., available on a streaming service or standard pay-per-view), an online pirate can easily create a pristine copy and upload it into piracy’s digital world where you don’t have to hold a computer degree to figure out how to watch it for free in your own living room on that sweet-ass 60-inch plasma with Dolby surround-sound.

All of the above is what the so-called experts believe happened to Marvel/Disney’s Black Widow. First, between its opening Saturday and Sunday, it dropped -42 percent. Then, between its weekend one and two release, it dropped close to -70 percent. Both are records or near record-lows for a Marvel movie.

In other words, Black Widow is not only a box office embarrassment; it’s an embarrassment for the biggest studio’s (Disney) most important franchise.

Disney, of course, chose to make Black Widow available to Disney+ subscribers (for an additional $30) on the same day it hit U.S. theaters. The result? It became the number-one pirated movie in America.



Some consumers are clearly starting to think with so many platforms, the whole streaming thing might be getting too expensive and convoluted. In their desire to watch all the fun content without breaking the bank, online piracy is expanding as quickly as the content queues. The National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) pounced all over those facts, blaming Black Widow’s box office difficulties on piracy and the Disney+ distribution. Theater owners were particularly enraged when Disney added Black Widow’s $60 million Disney+ revenues to the film’s domestic box office gross, turning a disappointing $80 million domestic opening weekend into a dazzling $140 million domestic debut. According to NATO, because Disney+ is available internationally, the $60 should have been included to the global gross rather than the domestic gross.


NATO’s arguing that if Black Widow had been a theatrical-only exclusive, it would 1) not have opened to an embarrassing $80 million domestic and 2) would have longer legs at the box office. With perfect pirated copies now available everywhere, they argue, Black Widow loses the one thing that drives a blockbuster to a billion dollars: repeat theatrical viewings.

NATO is correct that Disney should have added the $60 million to the worldwide gross instead of the domestic. It is also correct that a simultaneous digital release means pristine pirated copies become immediately available. Conversely, a theatrical-only release slows the pirates. Either an inferior copy captured in a movie theater gets released, or the pirates are forced to wait for the digital release.

NATO is also smart to make a public stink. Obviously, their livelihood is at stake, so if they can sow doubts about same-day digital releases with studio stockholders, they can stave off extinction. And this most recent stink might have already had an effect. It appears as though Disney will release its next Marvel title, September’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, as a theatrical exclusive. Until now, Disney wasn’t saying either way.



However, John Nolte of Breitbart actually thinks all this piracy may actually SAVE the cinemas:


Naturally, because their only job is to suck up to the industry, not a single one of the Hollywood trades is even daring to suggest that maybe, perhaps, possibly, perchance; Black Widow took a box office dive because Black Widow kinda sucks — word-of-mouth, and all that. Nope, can’t say that, can’t even suggest it.

Sure, piracy and the China Flu both took bites out of Black Widow, but so did the fact it kinda sucked. The shine might finally be coming off the Marvel Machine. With no Robert Downey Jr. in the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Marvel’s off-putting woke pronouncements, the shine could really be off by September. Disney’s woketardery already killed the Star Wars movie machine. Pixar titles are now going straight Disney+. If Disney loses Marvel… Well, there’s a lot at stake.

Regardless, wouldn’t it be something if the same dreaded pirates who, for decades, have been the number one enemy of movie theaters ended up saving movie theaters? And if that ends up being the case, the dreaded pirate will now become the number one enemy of studios and their precious streaming services.

Nothing and I mean nothing, attracts subscribers to a streaming service more than great content, and there is no greater content than being able to watch a movie on a streaming service the same day it hits theaters. Take that away from the studios, and they’re just another HBO. Which isn’t terrible, but it sure isn’t what they had in mind.


What say you?

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Karina Smitt

I'm not as much of a "CoMiCs NeEd MoAr DiVeRsItY & iNcLuSiOn" advocate as my girlfriend often is, but we both love funny books, crispy bacon, straight bourbon and hip hop. Add yet, we never vote the same, so we cancel each other out... and that works perfectly in my book!