Are Australian Movie Release Dates A Major Piracy Driver?

Movie industry executives claim that Australia has become a major source of cinema piracy because of our release date schedules. The truth appears just a little more nuanced than that.

Picture by Vlad

In a recent news item in the Australians's Deal magazine, there was a piece on a fairly familiar topic: movie piracy, and the role which dodgy video recordings made in cinemas and then shared online play in creating a global black market for new-release movies. The magazine quoted a local movie industry executive to underscore the point:

When a new blockbuster has a simultaneous release, that means it often opens first in Australia, Village Roadshow national sales manager Brett Rosengarten says. "Australia and New Zealand have Thursday openings, whereas the US and Europe open new movies on Fridays. Along with the different time zone, it gives pirates here a clear head start."

On the surface, that argument seems pretty reasonable. Save New Zealand, we're about as far ahead of the US as it's possible time-zone to get while maintaining the near-simultaneous release dates movie marketing executives seek in the global media age. And our films are still in English, so there won't be overdubs or subtitles as a distraction. That could well make us a prime source of pirate camcorder flicks, however unappealing those recordings generally turn out to be.

But are Australian release dates really so uniformly offset? To put that to the test, I looked up the general release dates (using IMDB) for the 10 biggest movies of 2009 (as listed on Wikipedia). The full results are in the chart below.

Four of these movies conform to the Thursday Australia/Friday US release schedule Rosengarten suggests, but it's notable that more than half of them don't. In the case of three blockbuster sequels (for Harry Potter, Ice Age and Transformers) the release date was the same -- which would give Australia an edge, but only a slight one, especially if midnight screenings happened in the US.

And in some cases we fell behind. Sherlock Holmes opened a day later here (different Christmas launch approaches), The Hangover almost a week later, and Up a monumental three months later (conforming to a familiar pattern of family titles being held off for school holidays).

So there's already a problem with the idea we always get things first, and that's before you factor in the relative slowness of upload speeds if you share a film via BitTorrent, multiplied by the relatively slow upload speeds available to local users and offset by the rendering time on your PC of choice. It's pretty clear that Australian camcorder pirates could cause some chaos, but it's also clear that their US counterparts will not be too far behind.

Now let me make this quite clear: I can't see any legitimate reason whatsoever why anyone needs to make or download a camcorder copy of a movie. It's a criminal act, and a lousy viewing experience to boot. That said, I don't think the entertainment industry does itself any favours by making blanket statements that are pretty easily disproved.

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Comments

    I can't speak for movies, but this certainly seems to be the case with TV series.

    Partial screenings, not showing at all, sporadic scheduling etc all pushes people towards channel BT (or UN)

      +1

        +1 again. When channel 7 suddenly moved V to a different timeslot I stopped scheduling my time around episodes and went to BT. Completely shattered my trust.

      You've got what the article is saying backwards =)

      The exec is claiming Australia is a source of piracy because we get things earlier.

      What you're saying you're pushed to piracy because Australia gets things much later (if at all).

      Reminds me of the scandal with one of the Wii Mario games getting pirated by an Aussie before the US release.

        Yeah, fair enough. Even so, my point still stands. ;)

        Also, as Angus points out though, that's not a consistent rule.

      + 1
      I do not download movies (anymore, uni life was different). 1 i like to watch them in the best quality possible and 2 i like to support movies i really like.

      however im am channel BT all the way. i am absolutely pissed off with how FTA stations have ditched all their HD programming channels.

      i remember when the last season of 24 aired the first ep in HD i recorded it watched it then the next ep i missed, because they had moved it to the bloody SD channel.
      why would i want to watch Battlestar or V with stupid all over the place schedules and random (now non existent) HD.

      i respect that the scheduling and delays are improving but they arent there yet.

        Which is exactly my mindset. I don't touch movies, but until the networks start broadcasting TV Shows
        a) in minimum 720p and
        b) on a REGULAR BASIS
        I will continue to collect them (as I have today) from my generous friends in the US and the UK.

        I will admit, I was very impressed with Channel 10 earlier this year for matching (well, give or take a week) the US broadcast of NCIS, but in general the experience with FTA networks in AU is rubbish.

        That said, I do clear my conscience regularly. If I like a series (for example, Chuck, season 4 of which started today in the US - but GO! stopped airing season 1 halfway through) I will go and buy it once released here. I then proceed to mess with copyright laws again and rip my copies of said shows from DVD media onto my media server at home. Figure the ethics of that out for me, please!

    Because of the delays, I pirated both Wall-E and Up after being sick of hearing friends online talking about how amazing they were then forcing myself out of the conversation to avoid spoilers.

    I now own both on DVD and Blu Ray (I purchased the DVDs before I had a dedicated Blu Ray player and decided they were definitely worth upgrading). Watching the cam job versions of the films were definitely not as great as seeing them at the cinemas or on Blu Ray, but I was watching for the story and that sufficed.

    The thing that bugs me about this argument is that it doesn't stop piracy. The first people in the door will be the first people with camcorders who then upload the film online. Doesn't matter where they are, it's going to happen. So if Australia gets the film first, our pirates are going to be the ones with the first release. If Americans or Indonesians or Saudi Arabians get the film first, then they'll pirate it instead.

    Delaying the film in one region does not stop piracy in any form, it simply means a different group will do it.

    I should mention, I don't habitually pirate films. It really does have to be rare circumstances where a film has been significantly delayed here and I'm confident I will purchase it in some form regardless. Similar to the reason TV shows are so regularly pirated here, people don't want to wait for something that is available to them by other means.

    Definitely TV series. But that's also due to the belief that TV broadcasts are viewed for free, thus downloading them isn't a naughty thing to do.

    I'd say its further propelled by the misinformation of AU broadcasters and their 'hot from the states' rubbish for a season of TV aired 1 year+ in the states. Treat your customers like idiots & wear the price I say.

    Movies, theres no reason for there to be a delay in screening movies simultaneously around the world. Given the global economy we are in, global trading, global internet, its pretty much time for the cinemas to catch up if they want some pie.

    Overall, its the price of tickets that deter movie go'ers. $15 to see a possibly good movie, knowing you've been tempted by advertising showing the best 2minutes of the film, with no guarantee you will be entertained, especially with the 20/30/40 other adults/kids making their noise. Not to mention the freedom of going to the toilet when you want while at home.

    Old business models - they need to revise them in order to compete with today's environment, you know, the one the customers live in.

    Are cams really the problem? I hardly think they're a worthy substitute for a paid movie experience. I'd say leaked screeners etcetera can give you a good enough experience to substitute going to the cinema (or paying for a home version) but I sincerely doubt anyone willing to watch a cam would otherwise be paying for the experience by other means.

      @Tim,
      I'd say the people who are fine with watching the camrips are the most likely to actually go see it in cinemas. Why else would they such a terrible quality video? They're normally doing it to see if the movie is worth the money to see it at the movies. If they weren't going to do that, then why not wait for a blu-ray rip?
      I occasionally download movies (mostly TV shows for all the reasons mentioned above) but I never watch camrips. Like some one else said, all you see of a movie before it releases is a trailer that plays the best two minutes of the film. Then, the Australian cinemas tear $15 out of your pocket for a movie that may be terrible in the remaining 106 minutes.

    I think any delayed release increases piracy, simply out of desperation. When you don't even bother to sell a product, what other choice is there really?

    I think if you were some how able to analyse the % of pirated films and TV shows compared to their overall sales figures by region you would find that films and TV shows with a delayed release have a higher level of piracy. For example, Spooks season 8 isn't available on DVD or TV here in Australia, but it screen many many months ago in the UK, what option is the BBC providing Australian who wish to watch this show? None. So the only option left is piracy. There is such a simple solution to this problem though. Actually sell the product!

    I'll stop feeling guilty about watching the occasional downloaded movie when I can get a refund for having to sit through 'the best action film of the year' that turns out to be rubbish.

    I'm so sick of seeing a preview or ad, paying to see the film, and finding out I've just been scammed out of my money.

    They are always quick to judge never to admit they are the problem.

    I personally do not download movies for a plentitude of reasons.

    The price of tickets is what stopped me going tot he moves, $38 for me and my girlfriend to watch a 90 to 120min (often sub par) movie not including food/parking/petrol etc. For that price i could buy the dvd watch it in comfort, quiet and as many times as i want, with whatever food i want.

    Since prices went from around $15 a ticket to $18 i have cut my cinema viewing in half. These days i pretty much wait for dvd and rent it on a cheap day or with a voucher, and spend my hard earned money on something more entertaining.

    Some people will pirate because they cant take their kids and they cant afford a sitter and the movie all that often, and then its generally not Cams they pirate its the dvd screeners.

    If you could rent a dvd/stream on release day i would bet that some would use that method instead. But then that would hurt the cinemas (and probably cut revenue as 5 people would watch it together)

    Reality bites.

    With more and more people investing in home theater system (even just a nice big screen), more and more people are seeing the benefit of staying at home to watch their movies.

    Even if you don't own one yourself, the likely hood is you know some one who does...and there's nothing more fun then having a few good mates over for a good movie.

    You get privacy. You can chat, get something to eat/drink, take a break when ever you want.

    You get convenience, you can watch what you want when you want. No need to line up in queues, find parking brave the crowds...Missed that last scene? Rewind...

    You get a greater feeling of value for money. If you've got a movie you like, watching it 100 times isn't going to cost for each viewing.

    I don't thing releases are the only issue (they aren't going to help), but the model that cinemas are providing is no longer relevant for many people (can you say 3D :P).

    Considering our last experience at the cinemas, may wife and I are a lot less likely to venture out again for some time...

    If they really want to help reduce privacy, reduce the time between the release of the movie on the big screen to it been available on disk (I downloaded how to train your dragon the same day I pre-ordered it).

    Provide a more "personalized" experience. I should be able to "hire" a room for a party of people, say from 4 - 50 (or something), at a time that suits me and have available all the current releases plus some of the older block busters (on a pay per view model). That would be more meaningful then what they over at the moment.

    For me it's the prices. For a movie I'm really keen to see - I'll go see at the movies and pay for it (like Scott Pilgrim vs The World) on it's opening weekend.

    I always make sure to get a pack of discounted tickets when I see them on sale so I can see other films i'm unsure about. Just this weekend I saw "Easy A". It was quite a good movie - if I didn't have discounted tickets sitting there though, I wouldn't have paid the 38.50 or so to watch the movie with my wife. Not that it was bad, it's just because it costs too much. On top of that, you have to add $18 ish for a large popcorn and drinks. It's nearing $60 for an hour and half movie which could've totally went either way.

    If I had a few kids on school holidays, the prices would grow even more. Also if it was 3d. and if it was Xtreme Screen. And if I booked online.

    I love film, I just can't afford to see films i'm on the fence about.

    Cinema pricing just doesnt seem to correlate to what you get, near $20 for a movie just seems off.

    Tv series even more so, something like Spartacus which gets cut and dribbled into almost nothing, if it wasnt for the occasional fast-tracked show we'd still be watching something from last year.

    Personally I never watch cams, and I think they're garbage. I'd rather wait 6 months to pay to watch a movie at the flicks then watch a cam, but that's only my opinion, and I really don't care if other people make/download cams.

    What pisses me off is the movie industry making these bullshit claims that piracy is impacting their business. Look at The Dark Knight, for example. It was the most downloaded movie in 2008, and yet it was still the highest earning film of that year.

    I reckon if piracy really affected the movie industry as much as they claim, the industry would have gone bust years ago. But no, movies continue to break box-office records, and make more money every year.

    Can i just say one thing, in canberra we now have a cinema only charging $9.90 for full tickets and I think $7.70 for concession. Makes it a lot easier to afford a good night out.

    In regards to TV releases, I just cant sit through the ads, I cant remember the last time I actually sat down and watched "TV". I prefer to buy my tv episodes and the DVD release schedules would look nothing like the movie list posted in this article.
    And the disrepancy in pricing is huge. Price check a full season of Doctor Who on DVD compared to iTunes, I know you dont get physical media, but hey...

    SteveM, you're talking about Limelight Cinemas right? They are one the best cinemas I have EVER gone to. They have top quality screens, 10x better than dendy and hoyts. My only wish would be that they open up in the North Side, than I would go more often.
    As for TV shows.....
    Merlin, for example. Season 3 started there two weeks ago. It is not going to be shown here in Australia for several months. Why should I have to wait for it to turn up here

      Yeah I am talking about Limelight Tuggeranong....its a great movie theatre, even without the cheap pricing. I watched "The Other Guys" in Homebush the other day, which is a Reading Cinema...$17 tickets... old analogue projection that seemed blurry in comparison. I dont argue for options where you will see cinemas dying, I love going to the movies, and if I can only afford it a couple of times a years it will make the experience that much more special.

      We cant just sit couped up in our homes because everything is delivered right into our laps.

    This is why I advocate the online distribution of Movies and TV.

    If only the networks would get off their arse and actually allow Streaming IE Netflix or the likes to be in Australia.

    If I have a VALID digital alternative... I would have no problem with paying for these things.

    In a world where everything is going digital... Why in the hell would I want to take up valuable real estate in my house with endless racks of CDs/DVDs/HD DVDs/Blu-Ray DVDs... Seriously.

    Give us Aussies a LEGAL DIGITAL alternative and we will flock to it.
    There was a news story on Giz not too long ago reporting that Australia is on the top of the list for Most Bought DVDs.
    So if we could get digital copies (WITHOUT DRM), these numbers would sky rocket more.

    MPAA, RIAA(Not so much anymore) need to wake up and open up the digital markets.

    I also believe if Cinema style digital screening is available to customers to their homes (New release movies), people would jump on that too.
    Sure Cinemas would dwindle in numbers, but you would still have the odd Art House theatre still playing movies for those who want the Cinema experience.
    This is going to happen no matter what... The choice is whether you want to stick to your guns and hold out for as long as you can, or whether you get a head of the train and cash in big time.

    I know which I would choose.

    I have to agree with the price of seeing a movie and release dates being a factor. I don't pirate movies, but I can see the incentive. I took my son to see Despicable Me yesterday and it cost us $32. That was just for one child and one adult to see the film. No food or transport. (Movie food alone would have doubled that price - thank god for the nearby supermarket lol)

    Now, according to the IMDB Despicable Me was released in July in the US. But it was a September release here. So not only did we wait two months to see the film, we paid a small fortune for the privilege too! But we are luckier than the UK who won't get it until October.

    So while I don't do it, I can see why people do.

    Obvious thought - The Movie studios and distributors came up with this Thursday release logic.Why not just change it so new releases start at 5pm Friday. Would anyone notice? Probably not.

    With the move to digital movie projection I imagine this would be fairly easy to switch over cinema screens between films whenever they want to.

    I use to watch at least 2-4 movies a month in the cinemas, they are now lucky to see me 2-3 times in a year!.Local cinemas are charging $18-22 per ticket I’m simply not happy to support them at those prices simple as that.

    For my wife and I to see a standard 2D movie with popcorn and coke is nothing under $50 excluding dinner, petrol and parking... NO THANKS!

    I know there is still a cinema just out of the Brisbane CBC that still only charges $6.50 ($5.50 students/ seniors) on Tuesdays and $8.50 ($6.50 students/seniors) for weekends and evenings but if a cinema basically in the city can charge these prices as well as throwing in free parking for the movie why can’t our local cinemas offer similar/better deals without throwing in parking?

    Unfortunately I’m about 30min out of the city so I don’t go there often but when I do decide to see a movie I make a point of driving there even if it’s might cost me the same with fuel or whatever I would rather support the cinema supporting us.

    if a movie has same day release, and i actually want to see the movie, then there is a 100% chance i will see it at the cinema. If it has a delayed release then it is just a race to see if a dvdscreener/r5 (i don't bother with cams and dvdscreeners and r5s come from america and russia) gets released before the movie gets to the cinema.

    If you want an example of why people download movies look at the release date of zack and miri make a porno and role models. The day the dvd got released onto the net was the day we got it here in the cinema. And same as the movie Push. I saw a dvdrip of it nearly 1.5 years after i saw the trailer at the cinema.

      edit:
      1.5 years before sorry

    to further add to that point, this year the last airbender was released here 2 months after the US release, the sorceror's apprentice was released almost 3 months after the US release, the Other Guys was released here 1 month after the US release...

    Yes, big ticket item movies that do simultaneous worldwide releases are great, but there are lots and lots of examples where we are well behind. I personally make every effort to go see a movie at least fortnightly because I like going to the cinema... but ticket prices are annoyingly high here, and when release dates are irritatingly slow, can you really blame us for just wanting to see the movie already?

    Hey the photo above is from my flickr account and it's by "Vlad" not 306. Thanks for using it though :) I was wondering why it was getting a lot more traffic last week...

      Credit updated.

    Sorry to necro your thread, but I had to comment on a new movie.

    Cowboys and Aliens. Release date in USA, 29 July. Release date in Australia, August 18.

    I'm a movie buff, I love them, love talking about them. So when a lot of my international friends see a new movie and want to talk about it, I'm stuck with either "No wait guys for 2 weeks so I can go see it and join in" or "download a cam".

    Don't get me wrong, I'm more then happy to go to the movies, and regularly see a movie at the movies. (By regularly, I mean weekly). It's just annoying that we're put into this crazy position.

    And don't even get me started on TV series. /groan. I'm looking at you criminal minds.

    I know this is old, but nothing has changed. Skyfall released heaps of places 26 Oct, NZ\Aus 22 Nov. I've just been looking though "coming soon" movies cos I have 4 tickets to use up this year, Lincoln released 16 Nov USA\Canada, 31 Jan NZ, 7 Feb Aus, 19 April Japan, WTF?! All countries that speak the native language of the film should at least get it within a week of each other.

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