Lionsgate Aggressively Pursues Leak of Expendables III

Well, what have we learned about pre-release piracy and its likely impact on this past weekend’s lackluster performance of Expendables III at the box office?  About two weeks ago, someone who had access to a DVD-quality file of the franchise’s latest installment leaked that file for the purpose of upload to illegal file-sharing sites; and prior to film’s release on August 15, it had been viewed an estimated 2.2 million times.  Some industry watchers will say that piracy clearly played a role in this case, damaging critical opening-weekend sales; others will point to the possibility of “franchise fatigue” and say that, with or without piracy, fans of the original Expendables might not have turned out for Number Three in profitable volume anyway.

For sure, we can expect folks to solidly assert one view or another depending on their opinions about piracy (and perhaps of the franchise itself), but the truth is that we probably can’t know with any certainty how many ticket sales did not materialize due to the leak.  What we can know, however, is that is that it shouldn’t bloody matter with regard to the larger conversation about piracy.  I say conversation generously because it isn’t a conversation any more than arguing with my seven year-old about bedtime is a conversation.  As I said in my last post about this story, pre-release piracy is a dick move; and if nothing else, it would be grand if stories like this leak would help place this narrative that piracy is “about something” into the lunatic fringe where it belongs.

I’d like to point out that the two million plus “fans” who chose to watch this film before its release will not be the targets of Lionsgate’s aggressive legal pursuit of the players responsible for the leak.  As such, it would be great if we could mothball this tedious tale writ by the whiny defenders of piracy (including Peter-I-hate-prison-because-they-don’t-serve-vegan-Sunde) that continues to cast individual viewers as victims in this context.  To the contrary, Lionsgate is very much out for blood it seems, but they’re gunning for the people who actually stole from them and profited by doing so.  In fact, the production company last week was granted permission by District Court Judge Margaret Meadows to force the likes of Google and GoDaddy to provide the identities of site operators who had been hosting copies of the film, and a round of subpoenas was sent out.  This was in addition to Lionsgate already filing suit against six file-sharing sites for hosting copies of the leaked film.

There’s more, and there will be more to come from this story.  This kind of piracy is a particularly big deal.  It begins with an act akin to embezzlement, someone in the production chain taking a product with a $90-million-dollar price tag and selling it to a black market before it even reaches the legitimate market. That’s not a social agenda in action. It’s not about diffusion of culture or the democratization of access or free speech. It isn’t a response to “Hollywood’s failure to adopt new distribution methods.” Whoever stole the original file wasn’t thinking about any of that crap, he was just doing it for money.  And he stole from his friends and colleagues.  That’s all this is about.

So, no, the viewers of  the pirated Expendables III will almost certainly not find themselves in the crosshairs of Lionsgate’s lawyers, but there’s no avoiding the fact that without their participation, piracy-for-profit simply wouldn’t exist.  If you don’t want to see a movie, don’t see it.  Let films like any other product live or die in a legitimate market on their own merits.  If you do want to see a film so badly that you just have to watch it online before its release and without paying for it, then at least have the decency to shut up about it. Because it’s just a dick move. Nothing more.

© 2014, David Newhoff. All rights reserved.

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  • I don’t doubt it cost them sales. Unlike many other anti-copyright folks I don’t doubt that post-release piracy costs sales either.

    The same kind of leak wouldn’t have done nearly as much damage, if any damage, in a pre-information age economy. This simply wouldn’t be possible without the massive distribution network and copying ability that the information age allows for. It’s the fault of computers and computer networks.

    People act in their self-interest and did before computers. There is no spontaneous genetic mutation that turned people into dicks in the last two decades. The whole rant against how people will conform to some world view, even if you say in some abstract sense it is in their interest (at best the pro-copyright self-interest argument is a tragedy of the commons).

    But the key difference here is the information age. The technology has changed. Is this what you want, fighting inevitable leaks and copyright infringement forever (as information technology gets better, by the way, so will copying)? Is this the ideal system for content creation? How would you make a economic system for content creation in the information age?

    Why not just drop the idea of artificially scarcity entirely? Why does artificial scarcity make sense in a world where every human being could potentially have access to all the world’s published content?

    • I find it painfully ironic that someone who thinks technology can solve all the world’s ills, from human mortality to space exploration.. doesn’t have faith in technology to prevent mass-scale infringment.

      “It’s the fault of computers and computer networks.”
      That is absurd. Computers and networks don’t do shit without human input.

      • I find it painfully ironic that someone who thinks technology can solve all the world’s ills, from human mortality to space exploration.. doesn’t have faith in technology to prevent mass-scale infringment.

        Figure it out then.

      • Just to mention my previous statement:

        I only support copyright in areas where it doesn’t conflict with civil rights. Copyright enforcement must work without monitoring people’s communications, without taking down entire websites based on the alleged behavior of its users, and without short circuiting due process (takedown requests that don’t come from a court). If you can’t enforce copyright without these things, you don’t deserve a copyright.

        The corollary is true – if you can figure out a way to make copyright enforcement work without these things, then I have much less reason to oppose it.

        At the core, that’s what it comes down to in the end.

  • Maybe we could agree on a percentage of the gross as to how much they lost in sales…10%? 20%? You guys pick the number…
    10 percent of 16 million dollars is 1.6 million…the last one of these opened around $25 million, and they spent much more money on this one…so they needed a better ROI, but they forgot one thing…you need to make a good movie. Everyone who saw this piece of crap said it sucked. That’s why it didn’t open. The best advertising is still word of mouth. I think everyone needs to make up their own mind about piracy, but for me…I’d like that conversation to center around facts.
    If you make something that people want to see, or music they want to hear…there’s still money to be made and IMHO, the future belongs to those who just forge on ahead, putting product out there, refining their craft, growing their audience…
    The whole piracy conversation is so 5 minutes ago. I predict that Lionsgate will not cause a ripple…I would be very surprised if anyone gets shut down, fined (maybe some slap on the wrist fine), or arrested…

    • I personally think the whole Expendables series was utter crap as far as movie-going experience, but that doesn’t excuse any of the behavior demomstrated by the pirates. Obviously there was a fanbase, or it wouldn’t have made it to number 3.
      We’ve had this crop up several times now: why should personal taste be a factor in the (perceived) severity of the crime?
      If i go into a store and steal a diamond necklace, but you happen to think diamonds and necklaces are so five years ago, that doesn’t negate the crime. The store owner is still hurt.
      I find it ironic that people justify their behavior saying “yeah i stole it, but it was such crap that i wouldn’t have bought it anyway” .. that is the stupidest argument ever made. If it was such crap, why bother watching it in the first place?

      • Number 3 on a slow weekend with nothing else opening is pretty bad in the film world. Lionsgate will lose money on this, and by the way…so will most of the actors – who are probably working for not much more than scale but get a piece of the back-end.

        I don’t think that the diamond necklace is an accurate analogy when it comes to intellectual property. If you weren’t a buyer for a diamond necklace – or in this case a $60 or 70 dollar evening if you take a date to this movie (more if you have a family) – it may not excuse illegal downloading, but Lionsgate was never going to get your money in the first place.

        Lionsgate will still be hurt, but you may want to ask yourself this question – “Is Lionsgate hurt more by making a crap movie that you then tell all your friends is not worth watching?” Or…”Is Lionsgate possibly helped by you telling all your friends what a great movie you saw and how they have to see it”?

        Whether or not you downloaded the movie and didn’t pay for it, my belief is that Lionsgate is hurt much more by making a bad movie.

      • It’s my opinion that the subject of piracy, particularly this form of piracy, should be an agnostic discussion. Good film v bad film is too subjective. I can name plenty of financial hits I don’t like and films I love that hardly made a ripple in theaters. It’s reasonable to say that Expendables III might have lost money no matter what; I’d probably make that prediction myself, but that doesn’t matter.

      • As an artist (content producer, musician, film maker, Hollywood Whore – some days I truly wonder), it’s our job to encourage the making of good art rather than bad art. Whether we do this by buying tickets, donation, writing reviews, or merely telling our friends about a great band, movie, play…whatever…it has a ripple effect. Conversely, it is ALSO our job to DIS-courage bad art. And whether we do this by not buying tickets, telling our friends, or by merely ridiculing what we feel is sophomoric/banal/silly…that also has a ripple effect.

        The money people who largely get to say what gets put out there will gladly give us dumbed-down crap as long as we buy it…and as soon as they figure out that we’ve had enough of it and need something with a little more substance…they will provide that…if they haven’t forgotten how – a real possibility from what I can see.

        So I understand why you would say that this conversation should be agnostic, but I still contend that quality is connected to this discussion…in fact an integral part of it…and that piracy has become as widespread as it has because, after all, people do not perceive that they are stealing anything of real value…

      • The discussion as to what is good or bad is a road to madness. One man’s meat, and all that. The artist has a responsibility to put out what he/she feels is “good” as he/she defines good. Whether or not consumers appreciate the work is a total friggin’ gamble, but it is not the artist’s job to lead the public toward the light and away from the dark in this sense. And specifically with regard to piracy, people do not perceive that even the works they love have value. People pirate works they cherish. They pirate niche works and works we might call “real art.” They just pirate the mainstream and popular stuff in greater volume.

        I believe it is important to defend the principle, regardless of how one feels about a particular work. It’s like free speech. If you believe in the right, you defend it even for the sake of speech you abhor.

      • So you seem to be saying that even though people cherish certain art, they’ll steal it anyway…Dude, you’re even more cynical than me and I didn’t think that was even possible. At some point I still have to believe that a person’s conscience will kick in and they’ll realize that they should be supporting art (and artists) that they do cherish. They just need to be made aware of it.

      • I’m not saying they will pirate, I’m saying they do pirate. I’m not making this up because of my lack of faith in humanity. Small, indie producers of films, music, photos (you name it) will tell you they get pirated all the time by people claiming to be big fans. And that’s the problem with the way the culture has changed. These fans don’t really think they’re doing anything wrong because they’ve grown up with free stuff as a norm and have been told over and over that piracy is not stealing, it’s promotional, it’s a response to scarcity, only takes money from the big companies, etc. Creative work has been devalued, and we see evidence among both the biggest and smallest producers. And it’s not all about piracy. Digital technology in general creates an illusion that all this stuff is just there for the taking, even if you don’t pirate. It also fosters an illusion that this stuff is easy to produce, forgetting that what costs money in any of these enterprises is people who know what the hell they’re doing. And in a thriving economy, people aren’t supposed to cost less year after year, they’re supposed to cost more.

  • What if a leak was part of a marketing campaign (this obviously wasn’t or maybe it was and it failed)? I was given a “Beta” set of a new string formula from D’Addario for “testing” – I know that it was very targeted advertising and that every time I posted a pic or tweet about the strings I was advertising for D’Addario – but I liked the strings and have actually switched to them – so they gave something away, but gained serious paying customer – a Fan.

    This works for musicians, for artists, for yogurt companies, it could easily work for Movies. I know many folks who go see a movie in the Theater and if they like it, they take their friends and family the next day or weekend – That’s how I saw Guardians of The Galaxy – I wasn’t going to bother (another ‘yawn’ super hero movie) but my brother-in-law kept saying it was great and took three of us out to see it. Imagine a targeted pre-release that was a CONTEST or even a rental through iTunes???? – allowed for a private showing to everyone who could cram into a living room. Imagine if it was good enough that people would want to see it again on a big screen IN 3D!! even after seeing it in a pre-release.

    Expendables needs a fan base. People willing to shell out cash to see the next installment of the franchise. Would this sort of leak do the same kind of damage to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit or even another Star Wars? Can’t say, but I know that I would pay to see it even if I could see it free illegally. I wonder how many real fans Expendables really has.

    In the end, the pirates and thieves are out there, always have been. They steal photos, books, music, clothes, money, ID’s, movies, everything really – so you need to make ART people are willing – actually want – to pay for.


    • Thanks for commenting, Joshua. I think it’s nearly impossible to come up with a scheme in which such a leak would be beneficial for the release of a film like this one, although there are certainly clever ways to “leak” things to fans and prospective fans in order to get their attention.

      Regardless, none of my comments about piracy should be misconstrued as specific defenses of the works themselves. I’ve never actually seen an Expendables film; they’re not my kind of fare. Filled up on Stallone and guns in the 80s. Additionally, I’m no fan of milking a franchise to death. But none of that matters with regard to the principle at hand, especially because there is little evidence that so-called fans treat the works they supposedly cherish with any more respect on a percentage basis. For any given product, popularity comes with a corresponding measure of piracy; and making distinctions as to what is “good” work is entirely beside the point. Piracy numbers are off the charts for the most popular works (e.g. Game of Thrones), and you can’t argue with the makers of those products that it’s stuff nobody really wants to see, and that’s why they’re pirating it.

      • Interesting that you mention Game of Thrones – yes, it is widely pirated…guess what…everyone connected with that show is getting very rich. Do I resent that HBO is making a killing…? Not really, until I look at my cable bill and realize I pay a lot of money for that channel and I only watch a very small amount of their content. GOT being one of my faves…

        But I do not believe (and have never believed) that HBO is in any way looking out for my interest as a customer. I guess that bottom line – I think producers of content have a vested interest in making that content quickly and easily (and maybe cheaply – I’m not sure yet) available to the audience….and that piracy thrives in the absence of that availability. We’ll always have it, but I think it’s possible to minimize the effects of it.

      • Can you name an industry in which you feel most companies are “loping out for your interests?” Certainly, there are industries that ought to take that kind of responsibility — auto makers, pharmaceutical producers — but this seems like hyperbolic language to use when talking about a business that makes entertainment. Nobody gets hurt watching a movie they don’t like, and the cost of trying things is cheaper now than it was 30 years ago. Piracy thrives because consumers feel entitled to take things for free and because well-heeled hucksters in universities write smart sounding articles that aren’t actually smart at all. Piracy thrives because it’s easy to get away with it to the extent that some people actually feel foolish if they do pay for things. Lack of availability, especially for Americans, is a poor excuse. If more people just said, “I pirate stuff. It’s stealing, and I don’t care,” at least that would be honest. But all this theory on the subject is insult to injury.

      • Like you said in the other post, “Sometimes my 12 year old has to wait…” But we live in a different age now. Why SHOULD he have to wait? Very soon content will be delivered much more quickly and easily. Will people still go to movie theaters? I don’t know…the shared experience of a big screen is still compelling, but already the studios are realizing that much content gets watched on very small screens.

        I’m actually not criticizing your position (it sounds like you thought I was), I’m just saying that there is a connection between HBO looking out for MY interest and their OWN self-interest. They just don’t realize it.

        The world is changing very quickly…getting it all sorted out will take longer.

      • Yes, things are changing. They will continue to change. Presently, the reason we should wait to see Captain America is because that window between theatrical release and rental is a substantial component in the calculus that gets the film financed in the first place. A very substantial piece. You and I may not care much about that particular franchise, but Helena Wong did, which is why she wanted to see it. And if you want Captain America made the way it’s made now, it costs $170 million. If the big screen is forsaken entirely in the future, that will be one major factor in changing the economic equation, but that remains to be seen.

        As for HBO, it looks to me like they’re moving pretty quickly to adapt, having already decoupled subscription from cable. Some of their execs have even made overtures to embracing piracy, and we’ll see whether or not that turns out to have been a wise decision. Regardless, they know they produce great, popular stuff and are not tied to the theatrical release, so they’re very much moving in a Netflix-like direction it seems.

  • AudioNomics–
    “If i go into a store and steal a diamond necklace, but you happen to think diamonds and necklaces are so five years ago, that doesn’t negate the crime. The store owner is still hurt.
    I find it ironic that people justify their behavior saying “yeah i stole it, but it was such crap that i wouldn’t have bought it anyway” .. that is the stupidest argument ever made. If it was such crap, why bother watching it in the first place?”

    Well, it’s not my argument, but I guess the idea is that unlike a jeweler, who has a finite inventory, and would suffer harm if a necklace were stolen, since it could no longer be sold, there is no scarcity when it comes to works, particularly where a pirate makes a new copy himself. So the measure of damages can’t be how much profit would’ve been made by selling the copy to a third party; instead it has to be based on how much profit would’ve been made selling it to the pirate. If the pirate would not have bought it, then there could’ve been no profit lost. Thus, the copyright owner has not lost money, or even lost the opportunity to make money, and the damages should reflect that.

    Personally, I think there are better arguments to be made, but it’s not utterly random nonsense, at least.

    • It is random nonsense, and adding in the scarcity argument doesn’t change it at all.

      • Monkey,
        No, AudioNomics said that it caused harm.

        Lack of scarcity, if coupled with no alternative action where a pirate would pay for the work, indicates a lack of harm.

  • The “why should we have to wait” argument is one of the most juvenile ive ever heard. The counter argument should be “why should you get it whenever you want?”

    As for paying for it before you know the quality, many restaurants and most live venues make you pay first. So what?

    • Of course you know, Monkey, that the argument proceeds from the existence of the technology itself, which serves as cover for the moral choice being made. By the same logic, if Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak were real and widely available, all manner of thefts and assaults would be considered morally neutral because technology had changed the conditions of social interactions. In a non-techological context, we see this same logic applied by looters who take advantage of a riot or a disaster.

    • The “why should we have to wait” argument is one of the most juvenile ive ever heard. The counter argument should be “why should you get it whenever you want?”

      The counter argument to that is “why shouldn’t you get it whenever you want?”. Or in the more general sense “why shouldn’t you get whatever you want?”. It might sound juvenile, but that is actually a deeply philosophical question, a question that mind you, is the foundation ideas of personal liberty.

      I’m not saying there isn’t legitimate answers to that question, I’m sure you can come up with many and they are probably legitimate. But the question itself is not wrong.

  • Anonymous: we’ve been through this before. There *are* legal methods for getting these works. You might have to wait, but I have yet to her an argument that that is an undue burden.

    As well, the scarcity argument ignores that the people who make these works are indeed scarce. There’s only one David Bowie or Thomas Pynchon.

    But that’s beside the point. What overviper is saying is that if he doesn’t like the product he shouldn’t have to pay for it. That is indeed nonsense.

  • M – it’s not that deep. Your right to someone’s work ends with their right to be paid for it.

  • Monkey…what I’m saying is this: If I go see a movie based on a trailer that I’ve seen that is basically a commercial…no different than a toothpaste ad…If I go see that movie and the movie turns out to be a piece of crap and I spent $40 for 2 tickets and some popcorn…AND I spent 3 hours of my life doing that…What I’m saying is this…What have the people who made that movie stolen from ME? If you want to argue that it’s my fault for falling for their ads and their promotion, YOU’RE basically saying that it’s OK to say anything and lie about anything if it makes the sale.

    Is that the world you want to live in? Please don’t put words in my mouth. I thought I was pretty clear. If Expendables III was a better movie, it would have made more money.

    • Overviper, how rational is what you’re saying really? In 2014, you have more movies to choose from and more ways to access them than any of us had 20 years ago. You also have access at price points that are pennies on the dollar if you factor for inflation over those 20 years. Assuming you’re an adult, you’ve likely formed many of your own tastes, know what kinds of films you like, know what artists interest you, etc. And I imagine you budget your time and money accordingly. For instance, if there’s a director who interests me, I’ll go see his/her new film and won’t feel cheated if I don’t like it. The experience will still have been worth the price of the evening. I went to see Transcendence because the subject matter was interesting and I like Johnny Depp; but I thought it sucked. But as a filmgoer, what fails can be as interesting as what succeeds. (By the way, that film failed financially as deserved.) That’s part of experiencing anything in the arts, but it isn’t a matter of hucksterism on the part of the creators. Just off the top of my head, Barry Levinson is a director I respect very much but whose films can be hit and miss. But when he misses, that’s not because he’s trying to sell me a lemon.

      I also doubt that you’re as susceptible to advertising as you imply. I don’t know your tastes, but if there are certain filmmakers you like, I suspect marketing has little to do with your willingness to go see their films for better or worse. If you’re a lover of comics, for instance, and hate what Marvel is doing with those works, that’s a specific gripe; but it’s also your opinion, and nobody forces you to see those films. If you headed out to see Expendables I, II, or III expecting anything more than what that kind of film can be, that’s still not an advertising problem.

      The films that are most aggressively marketed tend toward a kind of homogeny that I fairly know what to expect, and like many consumers, I file these into the “wait for rental if ever” column. And the fact that my family of four can rent a film in HD for $4 in 2014 and watch it on-demand without two trips to the video store is pretty damned amazing and very good value. Nowhere else in the market can you apply your argument, though I wish it were so sometimes. Have you bought a major appliance in the last decade? They’re all crap now compared to reliability a generation ago. Do we get our money back for these high-priced, glossy-looking machines whose innards are manufactured to fail within two years? Not only do we not get our money back, but we don’t have low-cost, convenient alternatives like we do with movie viewing. Plus, as indicated, even going to a film that lets one down can be a worthwhile experience, if one is actually seeking the right experience. I cannot say this is the case at all when the washing machine fails to clean our clothes.

      Specifically regarding money and Expendables III, you actually have no idea (and neither do I) what the revenue pie would have to look like for that film to succeed; but that is in no way a justification for piracy, including pre-release piracy. I don’t know, for instance, what portion of revenue the producers are/were expecting from Asia, but I do know that Asian consumers lead the world in piracy right now. Does the fact that this film isn’t my cup of tea mean that it has no right to live or die on its own merits in a real market? That would be the same as arguing that the rule of law applies only to people whose views, religion, race, etc. are in line with my own. THAT can’t possibly be the world you want to live in.

      • David, you’re definitely right about price. Movies are still relatively cheap compared to not just appliances but most entertainment.

      • I really don’t get how you think I’m supporting piracy…I think I’m being pretty clear. Make a better product, you’ll make more money…

        Piracy just is. It’s a fact of life. Part of that fact is people liking something for nothing. Part of that fact is that the distributors of product have not made it their business to get that product to the public in ways that the PUBLIC views as convenient. Doesn’t matter what you or I think….Part of the fact that may seem like I support it is that every solution that I have heard put out there by the MPAA, RIAA, etc. is Draconian at best, and at worst truly evil.

        I’ve had a bunch of experience with distributors. I will bet that anyone who is a content creator (I am) has lost 5 times more money being ripped off by distributors than pirates ever stole. They are supposed to be the people making me money. Instead, as a matter of “business as usual”, they steal from me.

        All of that being said, David…you’re right…I am a sophisticated viewer. I rarely get fooled by movie trailers. But that is because I know something about the process by which they’re made. What is the result of my sophistication? I don’t go out and see nearly as many movies as I used to. I have Netflix. I like it a lot. But that doesn’t translate to the same unsophisticated me of 20 years ago who would spend full pop on a movie that was a “maybe”.

        Who does that loss of revenue hurt?

        And by the way…it isn’t just the money. Of course I feel ripped off if I spend on something I hate, but it’s the 2 or 3 hours of my life that I can never get back. With a DVD, if I don’t like it after 10 minutes, there’s an eject button. It’s more of an effort to get up and walk out of a movie theater…and if you’re with friends…

        But the fact of the matter is that movie trailers are made to fool people, just as any commercial you see on TV. The whole purpose is to get your ass in a seat. That’s why a movie can’t get made without a star with sufficient “Q” rating, that’s why no movie can get made without approval from the marketing department. But the audience has the last word…always. If the audience doesn’t warm to your movie, nothing can save it. To bitch about Expendables III being pirated is a side show…at least that’s how I see it.

      • I am sure, Overviper, if we were having a conversation in a forum better designed for back and forth that we would share many views. And if I implied that you support piracy, my apologies because I don’t read anything you’ve written in that way. Project by project and practice by practice, I’m sure we’d agree on many issues, but I do think it’s important to argue agains the practice of piracy even for the films I wouldn’t defend creatively, perhaps more so. Isn’t that always the test of whether or not one upholds a principle for its own sake? The economics and the practices within these industries is another matter as I see it.

      • Monkey – What I said about the Expendables movie is that very often, in the process of getting from script to screen (and I’m mainly talking about studio movies here – indies are different – but Lionsgate operates like a studio), very often, the project hits a snag between the directors cut and release in theaters. Many things can happen at this point, but one of the main things is that the film can pass thru many hands. Sometimes multiple editors are called in, different post houses to tweak CGI, maybe a different score…

        It’s at this point that the film is likely to be cloned. If it’s a good movie (meaning only that it’s a movie that will find an audience – we’re not talking actual quality), most of the above is not necessary, and there is typically less time between finished product and release, and there are for sure less hands that it passes thru. This is one way to lessen piracy and, by the way, it goes right to my other argument about quality.

        If anyone happened to read the LA Times this morning, there was a big article about how much money the movie business lost compared to last year. Some idiot executive tried to say “Well, there are always ups and downs…etc…” But when you look at the movies that have been released this summer, there are few that are not clones of sequels of clones of comic books. This has been the formula for awhile now, and for awhile it worked…but the audience is getting tired of it.

        What audiences never tire of is art…and specifically (since we’re talking movies) that includes great stories, great performances, great cinematography, and being transported to a better place for a couple of hours. If you lose your ability to create art, or dumb-down your audience so they can’t understand it or don’t seek it, at that point…what do you have left to sell them?

        I’m not in favor of piracy, but does anyone not understand how audiences no longer see intellectual property as something with real value? This, to me, is the main problem. There are other problems, such as the expense of going to a movie, the fact that movies are seen on much smaller screens and the effect of the theatrical experience is lessened…we all know most of this. But when the content creators operate on the basis of the marketing campaign, and the ability to brand…this is what we get…

      • By the way, we did our kitchen 3 years ago with Ikea appliances…best value to price ratio on earth. Holding solid. Made by Westinghouse. They make better cars these days too. Not as stylish, but better…

    • With all due respect,that’s your tough luck. If you didn’t like the movie,that’s not because the studio “lied.”

      The only example I’ve heard of “misleading” trailers is when a woman sued over the trailer of Drive being misleading because it suggested the movie was another Fast And Furious. How dare they have all that character development!

      I’ve heard the argument that movies show the best parts in the trailers
      and leave out the dead spots, but what are they supposed to do?

  • Overviper: you realize that David is an independent filmmaker, right?
    The “all you gotta do is make a quality product” argument ignores the fact that indie filmmakers and musicians are finding themselves pirated just as much as the majors (and with a greater impact on their bottom line)

    Btw, most theaters give you your money back if you leave 30 minutes into the movie. And even if it sucks? You have something to talk about with your friends.

    • I’m aware of David’s band, not his movies…But I’ve also been a musician and now I make documentaries…so I have some knowledge of what’s out there. Right now, if you are making movies, the biggest problem is distribution. If a studio distributes your movie, you’ll get an upfront fee (they’ll grind you on this end) and you may or may not get any back-end money when your movie goes into “profit”. My wife has been a studio executive and also a producer, and has made some major movies. She does not often get a check, and most of her movies are long into profitability…same with record labels…you can audit them, it’s expensive to do it.

      Possibly I’m just old and bitter, but I still get up every day and try to move my projects forward. The internet has certainly changed the playing field, but in my mind, one of the most egregious aspects is how it has lent itself to the new age of spin and marketing. When I say I resent being sold a bad movie, I’m very serious. If someone steals my money, I can always get more money. I can never recapture 5 seconds of my life.

      The distribution mafia that has funded the RIAA, the MPAA, etc. does not have the interest of the content creator at heart unless they happen to be that person as well. They gladly will cheat me as well as the public, try to pass Draconian laws, try to extend monopolies for cable companies, try to unwind net neutrality…all in the name of their corporate bottom line. OK…fair enough, They are in business to do that. I do not have to like it, and I do not have to support anything they are doing. I have too much experience with the “man behind the curtain”, and they have ripped me and my ideas off for too many years. My fondest dream is to have new companies come along and do business in daylight and treat artists fairly. Will that happen? It’s still early in the game, but it doesn’t seem likely…just newer, smarter, more glib selfish pricks.

      All of that being said, there are still people making money. They are able to do it in many ways, and I’m trying to learn how keep up. I just see piracy as almost an afterthought these days. It was not piracy that sunk Expendables III, it was the fact that it was not a good movie. And by the way, it still may go into profit…just not in America. The real money will be made overseas and it’s like that with many Hollywood movies these days, mostly because they just aren’t that good…

      • For a lot of people, no, piracy is not an afterthought. It’s cutting into their livelihood.
        The “evil big studios” argument only works if you ignore those who are really suffering.

        You may resent being “sold a bad movie,” but that is by no possible definition theft; you made the final decision to buy the ticket. In any case that has nothing to do with wanting to see the movie before the filmmaker decides to let you see it.

      • First of all, if I buy something based on an ad, and the product doesn’t match the sales pitch, I want my money back. Don’t you? Or is it OK to lie as long as it makes the sale? Caveat Emptor is a stupid way for the world to work all the time.
        Secondly, you keep saying I support piracy…stop it. Don’t fucking put words in my mouth. What I’m saying is that I’ve been ripped off far more by the people who distribute my content than I have ever been ripped off by illegal downloads.
        Thirdly, I’m saying that there’s a connection between making a good movie and making money. If you make a good product, it’s still possible. If you make a bad movie, there’s a very small chance.

        What isn’t clear about any of that?

      • Perhaps it does match the sales pitch. I know someone that frequents trade forums who reads a sales pitch about some product adds his own spin to make it sales pitch++++ and runs with that. When others point out that the sales pitch isn’t saying what he thinks it says then THEY don’t know what they are talking about. When he eventually discovers that the ++++ bit was his own invention then he’s been lied to by the evul marketeers. Now granted Jon is a very special snowflake, but often we read into things that which isn’t actually stated.

  • M wrote “The counter argument to that is “why shouldn’t you get it whenever you want?”. Or in the more general sense “why shouldn’t you get whatever you want?”. It might sound juvenile, but that is actually a deeply philosophical question, a question that mind you, is the foundation ideas of personal liberty.”

    Getting whatever you want isn’t the “foundation[al] idea of personal liberty”, not even close. Nor is it a “deep philosophical question” >
    It’s the foundation of being a spoiled brat. If you are a child, this would be a more understandable (if no off-putting) argument, but saying this assuming you’re an adult says to me your parents spoiled the living shit out of you, and you have money coming out of your ass anyhow..
    That statement makes me think of you as a whiny snot-nosed child throwing a temper tantrum in a toy store…
    Sorry, but it needed to be said.

  • Overviper: I would ask the same that you don’t put words in my mouth. I have not accused you of supporting piracy. I have pointed out that you feel that money and time has been “stolen” from you by movies that were “falsely” advertised, and that you have frequently brought this up when presented with more tangible examples of theft, i.e. piracy.

    There have been cases of scenes being in trailers that were not in the finished movie, or line readings which were different in the finished movie. But I don’t think that’s what you mean. Your problem is that you don’t get the movie the trailer promises you. Which is ridiculous. Of course a movie will not match what you fill in the gaps with your own mind when you saw the trailer. But so what? You’re not paying for a made-to-order story. In no possible definition is that theft.

    As well, you wrote in an earlier article that if they hadn’t wanted the Expendables pirated they should have released it sooner to when it was done, and that they should have expected that someone would leak it (why a crew member would risk further employment to do that is beyond me). I realize that it wasn’t advocating piracy, but it didn’t seem to be too concerned.

  • “Thirdly, I’m saying that there’s a connection between making a good movie and making money. If you make a good product, it’s still possible. If you make a bad movie, there’s a very small chance.

    What isn’t clear about any of that?”

    The last 20 years at the box office would not support that hypothesis.

  • Overviper said ” But when you look at the movies that have been released this summer, there are few that are not clones of sequels of clones of comic books. This has been the formula for awhile now…”

    That is a direct consequence of piracy.
    Think about it…
    [most] movies take an obscene amount of capital to bring to fruition. To make a movie, you need funding. Funding comes from speculators. In our current climate, it’s riskier than ever to invest money in an arts project… you can’t just go to a bank and ask for a 200million dollar loan to ‘make a movie’, you’d get laughed at as they threw you onto the street.
    What do you think is more likely to get VC funding: A new, artsy, never proven new director for a film that could hit-or-miss, or a known quantity? I can tell you it’s much easier (or just possible) to get funding for a ‘Transformers 6’ than ‘oogly boogilly goes to the park’ (made up name). Again, this is a very direct consequence of piracy.

    • Wow…I have no idea how you got to that conclusion…pretty sure you don’t have much working knowledge of how movies actually get made…so let me take you through the process…

      Bottom line is everyone wants to keep their job. This is the primary reason that anyone in the business does anything. Most times it is safer to not have an opinion at all. That way, it can’t come back at you later. So, as an executive, to champion an “arty” project may mean the unemployment line if it doesn’t work. This is the real reason (in my opinion) that we see so many lowest-common-denominator movies.

      The next thing to understand is that any idea must make it through the marketing committee. In other words, if the marketing department doesn’t know how to sell it, it can’t happen. If you know anything about marketing departments, you know that they are most comfortable selling things they already know how to sell…because just like a movie, a new idea has risk attached.

      Most very costly movies (as you’re talking about) are not funded from venture capital. The funding usually comes from people who are known quantities. These could be other studios, banks, other distribution companies…but to bring in new people also brings in new baggage. And in fact, if you look at producer credits these days, it is the small indie movies that have 8 or 12 producers…because they had to go scrounge for the money from many sources…Paramount doesn’t have to go beg for money. If they want to make Transformers 13, they just set the start date.

      The only way for a studio to take a chance on something new is to have an “element” that is willing to push it thru the pipeline…this means a star or a director, and depending on the budget it will or will not work. Tom Hanks is making most of his passion projects for HBO because it’s not easy…even for him. In fact, no movies get made at all without an element or elements attached to it…and this dictates the amount of money and therefore the amount of risk that the studio is willing to take. So every year there are fewer and fewer people who can do this because one failure means you lose a little of your juice…no matter who you are.

      The question of piracy, while there may be much discussion about it in the inner sanctums, and it pisses people off…Piracy never even enters the conversation of what gets made. The studios and distributors have it down to a formula…such and such a movie can open in the summer, we wait “X” amount of time before it goes to VOD, a little longer before it goes to DVD, etc…and all the time (depending on the movie) there is the expectation of a certain amount of the profit coming from overseas.

      This overseas revenue by the way, is a primary factor in determining what movies get made at big budgets, Only certain types of movies get traction in China…most American comedies do not, while a romantic comedy might work…or it might not…but you can rest assured that the film is test-marketed to death before a commitment is made to invest money in a theatrical opening in another country.

      Cleopatra, which is still the biggest budget movie of all time allowing for inflation, was pushed through the pipeline by one man, Daryl Zanuck…and he didn’t even do it until Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were on board…and he had to answer to no one except the board of directors of the studio. Many of the great movies were made the same way…someone recognized a great story that could make a great movie and they made it happen because they had the vision AND the authority to do it. They knew they were in a business that was basically gambling, but had the balls to take the risks. That is not the world we live in anymore. You may or may not like Cleopatra, but it did business and made money…and it couldn’t get made today.

      And that’s the real reason we have so much generic crap shoved down our throats and why it’s so hard for quality to make it through the system. It isn’t piracy. That’s a very tiny piece of the puzzle…

      • Yes, i’m well aware of windowing and the people who put up the money are speculating…

        You’re seriously trying to say that piracy isn’t a factor at all in this? You sir, are crazy.

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