The Horror Blogger Alliance is happy to present the first in what will hopefully be a long series of ongoing debates between members! Once again, the rules are only to be respectful, thoughtful, and to meet a 500 word limit for all fairness. Up first, B-Movie Becky from The Horror Effect and Venoms5 from Cool Ass Cinema will be taking on the following topic:
Is Pirating/Bootlegging Killing Horror?
I feel pirating, and or bootlegging does hurt horror, or any other genre for that matter. However, I feel it does far more to cripple the smaller companies than it does the big studios. The smaller DVD companies know in advance that their product caters to a limited audience. The appeal of some acquisitions will vary from one title to the next, but still, the newer releases are what most people, ie the mainstream audience, want to see.
The smaller outfits also have less chance of turning a profit versus a giant like Warner Brothers. For every obscure title they release, they will more than make up for it with a blockbuster hit such as THE DARK KNIGHT. These smaller companies generally have lower print runs which is why a lot of the titles are sometimes over $20 for a purchase. Torrents and pirates take away a portion of the pie due to the individuals who worked hard to get their releases to the already small number of fans that want them.
The bigger outfits can afford to take a loss here and there when they're going to move over a million units or more of a popular title(s). Bootleggers tapping into the bigger market is going to make a small dent, but this indenture is going to seriously cripple, if not mortally wound the little guys. So many great DVD companies have fallen over the last few years. Bootlegging isn't totally to blame, but it's clearly a problem, not just in America, but all over the world.
Furthermore, the bootleggers aren't totally at fault here. People buy them. They want them and don't care if their favorite film gets a legit stateside release. Then when there's no more releases, the "fans" complain. Sure, there's a select amount of buyers who are ignorant to what they are buying, but they don't know what they have in their hands is an unauthorized, non licensed release. They just buy it because it's what they want and it's cheap, too. If you were to place a bootleg (say $7) next to the legit release (say $15) on a shelf in a store, an interested or curious buyer is likely to take the cheaper one.
Because of pirating, there are a great many exploitation, horror (insert genre here), titles that will in all likelihood never see the light of a DVD player because of a number of contributing factors. The guy at home with two DVD players and or his trusty computer being one of them.
"No" B-Movie Becky:
There is a misconception that anti-piracy and copyright legislation are focused on the interests of filmmakers. However, they have become mechanisms of controlling the entertainment industry. Since nearly all the media in the U.S. is managed by a handful of companies, their lobbying power ensures their ability to control the type of media consumed. It also provides these major conglomerates a means of prosecuting individuals and artists. Not only do small violations add up to a large number in fines, but fear of prosecution adds to the atmosphere of control that is desired, creating an inevitable chilling effect on speech and ultimately, fewer means of expression. In the horror genre, the more options and the more access to different types of films, the better the genre will become.
Piracy-related loss is an industry scapegoat. Hollywood allocates more and more money to Blockbusters, consolidating studios to create mega motion pictures instead of moderately-budgeted films. “[S]ince it takes a much smaller audience to support a profitable lower-budget release, these films often focus on a relatively small demographic” (i.e. horror fans) and as a result, “the content and themes of independent movies provide a much broader spectrum of characters and issues than one finds from movies that cost $150 million to make and must be viewed…by tens of millions of consumers to return a profit.”1 The industry’s own practices are not even considered a factor in their alleged losses. Surely if internet piracy were as great of an issue as claimed, then box office numbers should give us some indication of an impact. However, they show no such trend and, if anything, show the opposite.
I believe that one of the reasons the film industry continues to succeed, despite piracy, is the growth of independent films hitting the box office as a result of an overall transformation into the digital culture. Niche audiences (dedicated horror fans) will ultimately pay to see the movies they want. Independent and foreign horror filmmakers will benefit from the exposure, fan base, and interaction created from piracy. Piracy may impact major studio films that need to make a return off immense budgets, but these are not the type of films that better the horror genre. In fact, the failure of these films may lead to an industry realization that producing creative, smaller budget films may be a better way to make a return on their investment—giving independent horror filmmakers a better shot at distribution. Paranormal Activity, for example, broke countless records, despite great amounts of piracy and screeners floating around. Horror fans will show their support for films/filmmakers they enjoy. General audiences will attend screenings if the buzz is good. Instead of focusing on piracy as a loss, Hollywood should focus on making a better experience for filmgoers, which should make horror fans and filmmakers happier in the long run.
Now is your chance to chime in on the subject! Feel free to post your thoughts on pirating and bootlegging below, and thanks again to our contributors in tonight's debate!