MPAA: choice and the sovereignty of consumption

The Motion Picture Association of America as released some figures from an industry-funded piece of advocacy research outling the ‘impact’ of piracy on… something (they don’t actually say what). There is little indication in the press release where they came up with these figures. It is disturbing to see these figures reported in the media without any comment about their legitimacy.

How are the ‘losses’ calculated? Do they guestimate how many movies are pirated, copied, or downloaded and then simply assume that for every copied, pirated or downloaded movie that is one less ticket sale at the cinema or one less DVD/VHS sale at the store? Is that how it works?

I think the relation between circulation and access to copyrighted IP and the alternate channels of content distribution opened up by consumers is much more complex than a simplistic profit/loss equation.

So there are not any cinema goers who will see a movie downloaded off the internet in shitty quality produced through a smuggled in-cinema camera and then decide that the movie was great, and worth taking one’s girlfriend/father/car club along to? Well that probably does happen, but I would suggest it doesn’t happen anywhere near as much as the reverse.

Someone will download some stupid shit produced in the Hollywood machine, then they write about it on their blog warning all their readers not to see the movie. This will take sale away from those represented by the MPAA. Not because of piracy per se, but, for example, because the critic-function of the cultural industry is circumvented by a thousand little blog-critics. Moral of the story? Don’t try to strengthen one of the main circuits of information and desire layed out in the previous incarnation of the cutural industry (studio-critic-audience-cinema) and do two things:

1) Stop producing shit movies. MPAA, please make this recommendation to those you represent and I can promise they will make more money. Make films that people want to actually pay money to see at the cinema. There IS a difference between shitty in-cinema camera films downloaded off the internet and the ‘cinema experience’. That is the ONLY difference that the ‘motion picture industry’ has working in its favour.

2) Simultaneous global film releases. Do they think it is smart to stagger releases so as to tweak the massive advertising campaigns for their pieces of stupidity? Here are some figures; advertising is more than one third (over $36 million on average) of movie budgets. Over $30 million to advertise shit. Release a film globally and people in countries other than the US will have no desire to see a film as soon as it becomes available using channels of distribution that do not make MPAA members any money.

They blame piracy for loss of profits? Yes, and this is the last insult. Accordig to their own figures:

Worldwide box office held steady at $23.24 billion in 2005. Although down 7.9% from 2004, the worldwide box office reflected a 46% growth over 2000.

46% growth in box office over five years? Huge losses, huge!

Speaking of shit movies, DO NOT SEE SILENT HILL, according to this review.

6 replies on “MPAA: choice and the sovereignty of consumption”

  1. Whatever Mate!

    To claim that Movie Piracy has not had an impact on the profits of Movie Makers is ignorant and naive.

    How often do you download?

    Simultaneous global release? Not going to happen. Distributers release their BIG films when they know they have the best chance of people going to see them – holidays. Unless you succeed in making holidays simultaneous around the globe (which would probably involve altering the climate of one hemisphere) then it is not going to happen.

    Try to undertstand how the industry works before you flame it. I’ve seen some great movies in the past three years. Creating films is a creative process. It’s art. Not all art is done right every time. There is no fool proof formula.

    Get off your high horse.

  2. Piracy is wrong. Downloading content illegally should not be condoned. Anything to bring that to the attention of the consumer is a good thing.

    It’s not just rich movie producers who lose money through piracy. The Aussie Battler who bought a video store with his life savings hurts from piracy too.

  3. thanks anon (and anon, if you are not the same MPAA stooge) for your comments.

    1) These great movies you’ve seen, what is the nature of their respective budgets? Did they have to spend one third on advertising? Or is that only for ‘creative’ pieces of ‘art’ like “Mr and Mrs Smith” or a someting so creative it is a remake like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (two of the worst films I have seen in the last year, on rented DVD for that matter)? If the movie is ‘great’ then I doubt they did have to waste so much money on trying to produce exchange-circulation (anti-markets).

    2) Video stores: Does the mechanic who owns a workshop get angry at the home handyperson who fixes his or her own car? Or who acquires parts through parts shops? Why should the distribution of media content be any different? If users/consumers are going to create their own channels of content distribution that cut out the middle-man in a free market economy, ie create their own channels of exchange and distribution, then Iam sorry but there is not much you can do about it.

  4. oh, one other thing, re ‘creative process’ and ‘art’. I thought I’d better explain the above better.

    If we take the average film produced by a studio represented by the MPAA, then we have to include the advertising as part of the media ‘object’ produced. That is, if we include the advertising in the budget for this ‘object’ then the object is not only the film it self. So what is this ‘object’?

    It is a market. The film studios do not produce films with advertising so people can watch them, what they are trying to protectis the ability to produce (and capture) markets. That is the ‘creative process’ and the ‘art’. The creative process of thinking how many people can be compelled to see a film at the cinema and the art of making this happen through saturation advertising and synergistic gimmiks.

    I am sorry for the film makers and other workers in the industry that the studio’s ability to produce markets is being destroyed.

  5. oh, last thing before I let this drop.

    I was contacted to promote an anime film because of the subject matter of my blog here is a cut and paste of the email exchange. SO if anyone tells me that chatter throughout the blogosphere does not help in the circulation (as per my original post) then they are sorely mistaken:

    Hey,

    I just found your blog entry: http://glenfuller.blogspot.com/2005/05/politics-of-bad-music-taste.html and I think you may be of some help to me. I’m contacting you on behalf of [Comapny] regarding the DVD release of [Anime]. Have you heard? [Anime] is best described as Batman with a Samurai Sword or a Cyber-Punk version of [Anime] in 2D/3D animation. Since you mentioned Akira in your blog entry, I thought that you may be interested in helping to promote [Anime].

    Please let me know if you are interested!

    Thanks,
    [Name]

    Hi [Name],

    You contacted me once before re: the release of [Anime2]!

    I am in Australia, so I am not sure how much I can help you. Although I am an avid fan of anime, particuarly Ghost in the Shell and Initial D.

    I am interested, but I am not sure what you would want me to do.

    Ciao,
    Glen.

    Hey,

    I’m so glad to hear back from you. When I was asking for your help I was wondering if you could post the [Anime] banner and/or press release to your blog. You can find both here on the Karas assets page:
    [link]

    The assets page contains animated banners, the press release, and high-res images for you to use as you wish.

    If you are interested in helping me out, I’d like to send you [Anime] on DVD, for your help. Would you be interested in that? If so, please feel free to post any assets from the above page and send me a link to your post, along
    with your full name and mailing address (which would only be used to send you the DVD).

    Please let me know if you are interested.

    Thanks for your time,
    [Name]

    [Name] | [Comapny]
    Grassroots Campaign Director

  6. I heard of bloggers who were caught out receiving other gifts, eg. bottles of wine, for favourable reviews of such promotions. ‘Cash for comments’ lives! Even in cyberspace!

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