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I Will Believe That Piracy Hurts Hollywood When Hollywood Stops Making Bad Films

The reason the entertainment industry’s support of SOPA / PIPA and stance on piracy and the market angers and annoys me is that they are trying to sell us the idea that millions is being lost along with jobs. Have you ever seen the pre-movie commercials where the Best Boy Grip or the Stunt Coordinator try to convince us that pirates are stealing food from their babies mouths? Horrible, right?

Thing is, none of that is true.

First, the people involved in making movies on that level get paid as the movie is shooting, not after. They get paid no matter how much the movie makes or how much it supposedly loses due to piracy.

The only people who “lose” money are those who get cash when a movie turns a profit, and even then they employ creative accounting measures to ensure that only a certain section of those people get to that money. See fights over Forrest Gump, Lord of the Rings, and more.

Second, I refuse to believe that movie studios are hurting for cash and that jobs are being lost when Hollywood continues to make shitty movies that no one wants by people who have a track record of making awful films hated by all with good taste.

To put it bluntly: as long as M. Night Shyamalan is allowed to make films I will not buy any sob story Hollywood tells me.

Think about it. Ever since The Sixth Sense Night’s movies have been steadily worse. You’ll find some people who defend Unbreakable or maybe Signs and I even know someone who found a sliver of merit in Lady In The Water, but by the time we got to The Happening it was clear to everyone that whatever mojo the dude once had was all gone.

Yet still he was allowed to make The Last Airbender and pen a script for Devil. He’s been given budgets in the millions, allowed to employ hundreds of people, make bad casting decisions, and generally run what should have been a guaranteed success into the ground. And he was given this opportunity after making a movie wherein sentient plants attacked the world in retaliation for global warming in all seriousness.

It’s not even just one director or one set of bad movies. This is the industry that greenlit and brought to our silver screens movies like Just Go With It (2011), Sucker Punch (2011), The Smurfs (2011), Clash of the Titans (2010), Knight and Day (2010), Burlesque (2010), Marmaduke (2010), Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore (2010) – shall I go further back? Oh let’s — The Final Destination (2009), Year One (2009), The Love Guru (2008), Step Up 2: The Streets (2008), Norbit (2007), Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector (2006), Big Momma’s House 2 (2006), Son of the Mask (2005), Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004), From Justin To Kelly (2003) okay, I will stop.

You see my point, though. Those movies each made multiple “worst of” lists. I’m sure some were honest efforts, perhaps some were ruined by interference by studio bosses, producers, and the like. However, I challenge anyone in Hollywood to tell me that absolutely all of those movies were made in good faith that they weren’t terrible.

If the entertainment industry was hurting, if piracy was really costing people jobs and stealing millions from those who needed to feed their babies, then the industry wouldn’t waste money this frivolously. In the end, it doesn’t matter if they make a shitshow of a movie, they will make money off of it. Who cares if it flops at the box office?

They’ll distribute it internationally and make up the difference. It will be released on DVD and Blu-ray and digitally no matter how few people went to go see it and someone will buy it. Digital and physical rental services will purchase copies and rights. The studio will sell it to one of the premium movie channels and then again to other premium movie channels a few years down the line. It will be on TNT or TBS or Comedy Central or any number of channels a few years after that.

Hollywood has money to spare. And they have no trouble employing people all the time to write, produce, make, film, and edit both good and terrible movies.

When the day comes that movies everyone knows will be terrible aren’t made in order to focus on the good ones that will make the most money then I will maybe believe that piracy is hurting the industry.

Do I think that piracy is right? No, I don’t. What I do think is that the arguments the entertainment lobby is using to push SOPA and PIPA are disingenuous. And when you push bad policy under those circumstances I will not support it. The problem is that they know if they were honest about what they want to accomplish no normal person would be on their side. Maybe not even the congressperson they’re buying off.

10 thoughts on “I Will Believe That Piracy Hurts Hollywood When Hollywood Stops Making Bad Films”

  1. Heavy Armor says:

    The movie and music cartels have been screaming “Piracy!” for nearly a century.

    The music people called the original Vinyl LP Piracy, because they claimed that people did not want to hear the same piece performed the same way every time.

    Then they called Radio piracy, because they claimed that people would (not could) stop going to concerts and live performances if they could hear the same song “for free.”

    The cassette tape? Yes, Piracy, because now the claim became that you would (again, not could) “record” your music instead of buying it at the store.

    The recordable CD? Yep. Now the claim is that your (home) copy would be a “perfect” copy of the (more expensive) original. And that you would share it with others who also had the same equipment…and the artist would be broke and on the street – as opposed to how it works now, where the artist sells records and cassettes…and the artist would be broke and on the street.

    And the Movie People didn’t really have to worry as much, although they did try to say that the home TV would cut into their revenues from the movie theatre.

    The videocassette was the first really big local fight by the MPAA. Their arguments were the same as the music people – why go to the expensive theatre when you can watch the same for cheaper (or free) on your own equipment?

    This argument was extended as the technology changed. From the DVD to the mp3 player to computer-based video to the internet (and higher-speed broadband) to the online store, the MPAA and RIAA all predicted that their client companies and their artists would go bankrupt if these technological advances were allowed to flourish.

    It’s the same story over and over again. The music and movie cartels continue to flog the “poor artist” meme to justify their near monopoly position as well as getting government support for their failing business models, which is why the laws on the books are as skewered as they are. It is why you see laws on the books that specify damages at up to $250,000 per downloaded song. It is why you see Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security shutting down websites and conducting raids of so-called “infringers.” It is why copyright, which was once upon a time for a term of no greater than 7 years with a single extension of 7 more before the work entered the Public Domain, is now Life of the Creator PLUS 75 more years (these are known as the “Disney Extensions”). All of these are tied together. And none of it is about “piracy” or “infringement.”

  2. Momsomniac says:

    I agree.

    The recording industry made similar complaints when small labels were, in fact, making record profits (nevermind the pun).It’s annoying to hear those who are trying to sell us garbage complain that they are losing $ because of something other than that!

    Personally, I liked “Signs”. I liked the tension. I liked that it took place almost exclusively in a single room.In the end though, I was disappointed that it turned out the alien invasion was real. Given the premise, I thought it would have been more powerful if that very devout family missed the Rapture because they secluded themselves (nice social commentary in that ending). And I was someone who saw the end of “Second Sight” from a mile away. AND even that film was no “Moon” – which doubtless, the big studios would never have made.

    What really irks me about the current complaints of piracy though – besides the “you won’t buy our garbage” bit – is that based upon their words, it wasn’t just piracy every time I made a mix tape in the 80s, it was also piracy if I loaned a friend a book. Seriously?

    1. Ace says:

      I’ve noticed that these big studios and record companies don’t really provide much room for innovation, yet they want to limit the capabilities of the smaller studios who will take those chances.

      Yep, apparently you must both spend the full amount to get a book or else your actively “stealing”.

      I am personally wondering how they’ll deal with the increasing amount of technology involved with shows and movies. A lot of games are doing Free to Play business models, I wonder if they can justify things like SOPA when that is the way things are going in other parts of the entertainment industry.

  3. Anonymous Coward says:

    I loved the title of this post.

    1. Anonymous Coward says:

      Also, it’s worth pointing out that bad movies very frequently profit off of domestic sales in addition to international sales. 3D also helps boost profits for bad movies. You have to get into “From Justin to Kelly” territory to find movies that don’t make a profit off of domestic box-office sales.

  4. Ace says:

    I’m going to be honest and say that I like some of those movies you’ve taken the time to classify as “bad”, heh. As an artist who focuses mainly in video game art, I can understand the pride that comes in making something, and I can understand the frustration that comes with seeing everyone complaining cause they can’t “steal” it as easily as they could before. I know that in the industry I concentrate on, you don’t see profits like that, the artist isn’t being paid a ton of money to do concept art or the animations. The 3d artists who designed the effects in many of those movies you’re complaining about aren’t the ones who see a ton of money coming in. You can say “I’ll believe piracy hurts hollywood when hollywood stops making bad movies” to the producers and directors, the actors and even the writers. But you can’t really say that to the “average folks” who are doing the grunt work. It’s just silly to me that people get so offended over the idea that they can’t just take someone elses work and redistribute as they see fit just because they think it’s a “bad movie” anyways.

    On the other hand, I completely agree with you for everything else! Here’s why:

    The people who are pushing this sort of legislation ARE the ones who make a lot of money. Many people who download movies or watch them online do not. I’ve seen these big companies shake down college students for vast amounts of money just because they download a song. I find the idea that these people have a sob story because someone downloads a movie ridiculous. People can’t afford to eat, let alone spend 10 bucks on a movie they might not even enjoy. And with all of the genuine hate sites out there that advocate all manner of horrible violence and speech, I find it off putting that people are more worried about whether or not someone puts a clip from a movie up on their website.

  5. Cecile says:

    I definitely agree. Also, wha irks me most is that Hollywood has not only been making bad films, it’s turned into a giant machine programmed for maximum money-making efficiency. I don’t know if that’s because films have become so expensive to make, and producers want to be certain they’ll get a return on their investment, but I find it appalling to see how Hollywood films seem to become more and more conservative, and stereotyped, as if anything departing from strict stereotypes was a risk producers couldn’t afford to take with the audiences. I had a big moment of consternation when I realised that the 2011 Conan the Barbarian film was so much more sexist and racist than the one starring Schwarzenegger (not that this one was the best film ever made, but still… and that’s just one example among many). That’s just not acceptable. We should be moving forward instead of backwards, right?

    What I wonder is, if Hollywood really starts losing big money on the long term, what will the results be like? Will they produce films with even bigger special effects and even more consensual stories, in an attempt to get the audience back? Or will it actually help independant film makers, who take far less financial risks and therefore can afford to be more creative? I’d love to be optimistic, but I’m not sure I should be :/

    1. Layogenic says:

      Little quibble, though I agree broadly with your comment: indie movie makers don’t risk less, just on smaller magnitude. A big producer like Miramax can blow 10-100 million dollars on a bomb and go on to make more movies, while an indie maker loses 100k and will never produce again. The money scale in Hollywood–like most scales there–is entirely out of whack.

      The general myth, or at least the general PR spin, is that producing outside of the “20-something, white, predominantly male” target audience is zomg dangerous, despite many mature and inclusive successes. Which is why RED TAILS was shunned by every studio until George Lucas (not to lionize him in any way) decided to finance it personally.

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  8. Jehanzeb says:

    I think it’s Hollywood’s racism and sexism that upsets me the most. In fact, I have been purposefully avoiding the movie theaters lately because of the trailer for “The Dictator.” I was so uncomfortable in the movie theater to hear people laugh at Sacha Baron Cohen’s racist mockery of Arabs, not to mention the use of Punjabi music in the trailer. The filmmakers must have thought, “Who cares if it’s not Arabic music, it sounds the same anyway!” Typical Orientalism. In the latest installment of “Mission Impossible,” the sequence in India is utterly atrocious. It’s like you can’t watch a Hollywood film without seeing white characters either poking fun at people of color or beating them up, or both.

    I made some interesting observations in my discussions about M. Night Shyamalan. I remember a white co-worker mentioned how much he “hates” Shyamalan. I told him, “Yeah, I don’t blame you. I can’t believe the way he white-washed the cast in ‘The Last Airbender!'” There was an awkward pause and then my co-worker was like, “Oh, yeah, but I wasn’t bothered by that too much. I mean, in the cartoon, Aang looked white. I just hate him because he ruined the movie.”

    I boycotted “The Last Airbender,” along with “Prince of Persia” for the same reasons, but I also didn’t like the racist remarks I heard against M. Night Shyamalan. Most of these remarks came from white radio hosts and commentators who didn’t care about the race-bending, but I was surprised how some people of color went on their blogs and made fun of Shyamalan’s last name. As a South Asian myself, I was outraged by the way Shyamalan dissed the criticism of his casting decisions, but I was also angry at the way people made unnecessary racist attacks against him.

    In the meantime, who goes after Edward Zwick, Zack Snyder, or Sacha Baron Cohen? Where is the outrage against these directors who have made “The Siege,” “300,” and “The Dictator,” respectively? These directors are allowed to make racist and sexist movies, but what I find even more troubling is how people willingly pay money to see their films. And when you try to criticize them, people say, “Oh stop being so oversensitive, those movies aren’t racist!”

    I’d pay money for movie tickets to see films that are people of color-centered (and not in a superficial tokenistic way) and challenge the racist, sexist, classist norms in our society. If it’s going to be some kind of action-adventure fantasy film, I want to see people of color for a change taking the lead in empowered roles.

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