Tuesday, 15 June 2010


Another Hollywood movie's in the can but unreleased due to funding problems. A digital copy of this one has leaked out though and is gaining good reviews on IMDB.

And here's the fun bit: the film's producer, Cotty Chubb, has been active on the IMDB message boards where he's been connecting with fans and asking them about ways of monetizing their interest. Here's his opener:
Guys (you're mostly guys):

OK, so this last week has been fascinating. Terrifying in a way, but fascinating. A movie I worked on for two years gets caught in a financial meltdown and loses any chance of theatrical release.

Three weeks before the first release of the DVD in the US, a high-quality pirated version of the movie (or more than one version) hits the torrent and streaming sites, generates a fantastic response (lots of 10s and quite a few 1s, not so many 5s), a very healthy message board (more than a thousand comments), and no revenue whatsoever to the people who decided to take the US$11MM risk to finance it.

One streaming site I checked showed more than 32,000 streams. I didn't check the other dozen or so. There's no way to know the number of torrent downloads.

On the message board I've heard a lot of reasons why streaming or downloading movies is a good idea, why everyone concerned should be happy with the attention (and in fact I am grateful for it), and how it's the new real world, but I haven't heard how the folks that paid for the picture are supposed to make their money back.

No question the movie business needs a new business model. But no-one knows what it is.

So here's one question, expressed a couple of different ways:

Is there a fair price, fair in YOUR eyes, that you would pay for a download?

Hey, take a chance, it's only a buck?
People tell me it's great, I'll drop two bucks?
Here's three bucks, I can afford it and it's only fair?

What number seems right to you?

Or is it zero, screw it I don't care?

I really want to know. Most of you are fans of the movie. Most of you are thoughtful articulate people. Help me understand what you think and why you think it.
Patrick Goldstein at The Big Picture summarizes some of the responses:
The responses have been fascinating, though I suspect they might also be profoundly disturbing to studio executives bent on protecting the windows model of releasing a film first in theaters and then on home video, all long before copies are available for downloading. Some viewers said they use downloading as a screening process to determine which movies they are willing to buy. Others suggested that studios embrace an iTunes model, with movies costing $2 or $3 to download. But everyone wanted the movies right away, not long after their theatrical release. And hardly anyone had any qualms about watching a pirated copy of the movie on the Web. It was certainly hard to find any enthusiastic supporters of the DVD model, since many consumers resent having to sit through the endless piracy warnings and trailer-ads that crowd the front of every new DVD.

If there's any moral to this story, it's that a new day is coming to the movie business, regardless of whether it's prepared for it. "We've got to come up with a new model, because the old one just isn't working anymore," says Chubb. "You just can't fight against a model where the movie is available for free. People clearly want to download movies online, so it's time we figured out how to get some money out of it."
Well, there's a bit of selection bias: the folks there commenting are the folks who've already downloaded the movie for free, so it's unsurprising that they've few qualms about downloading things for free. But the upshot for the windows model is right. Regardless of what rights the copyright holder ought to have, or how morally objectionable downloading may be, copyright is essentially real-world unenforceable and practicable business models have to deal with that. Want to wait to release your movie or TV show in New Zealand in hopes somebody will buy the New Zealand rights? All the high demanders will already have downloaded it for free while you dithered. If an option to buy the download at reasonable price had been available, some would have flipped over to paying for content.

Part way through the discussion, the film's director, Gregor Jordan, pops in and rattles a tip jar. I'll be very curious to see how this experiment ends.


  1. Yeah, me too.

    What an ungrateful pack of f'ing thieves.

  2. I totally agree with what you said about TV shows in NZ. I download quite a lot of shows right after they screen in the US, I don't want to wait several months, or forever, to see them (although it isn't as bad as it used to be). For example NCIS LA is currently screening in NZ, but the original NCIS is now an entire season behind. They screened back to back in the US, and had various linkages between them that we don't see in NZ. If it comes down to advertising, with Mysky HDI people just record the shows and can fast forward through the ads anyway, only stuff you watch live, most often the evening news, is where you see ads.

    If the tv shows I wanted to watch came out only a week/2 weeks later in NZ, I would most likely just watch them live.

    As for movies I don't really download them, just don't have the time to watch them all.

  3. I just purchased a CD from the U.S. on pre-order (first preference was MP3's but apparently they can't sell these to me because I live in NZ). Anyway, I got an email this morning from the record company with a secure link and am currently streaming the amazing new Wolf Parade album. A nice touch I thought.

  4. @PC: I'd be hitting their tip jar had I downloaded the movie (I'm not big into downloading). I hope a good chunk of the folks who did do hit that tip jar though.

    @Anon: Sky of course is paying a fee to the rights-holder.

    @hefe: That is a very nice touch. Wolf Parade?

  5. Wolf Parade: nice if you like Canadian's and a bit of synth with your rock.


  6. @Eric: It'd be a bad business model that relied on the generosity of thieves to turn a profit.

  7. @PC: Evidence on that one's mixed. Some artists have been disappointed running "pay what you like" schemes; others have been pretty happy with results. Mike Masnick has been doing some of the best reporting on how the business model has been changing with the erosion of copyright.

    @hefevice: I'll have to have a listen. Some of the best music in the world is Canadian and has a bit of synth.