Roger Ebert Doesn’t Blame Piracy For Movie Industry Woes

    December 30, 2011

While famed movie critic Roger Ebert’s perspective on the movie industry isn’t directly related to the piracy acts that have been dominating Internet news, the fact that he doesn’t mention piracy once while discussing the industry’s financial woes resonates much more than the fear tactics used by SOPA supporters.

In Ebert’s article, he gives six valid reasons why the movie industry is suffering financially, and not of the reasons includes piracy. Granted, this is Ebert’s expert opinion, but considering how long he’s been tied to the movie industry, his word carries as much weight as spokespersons for the various “AA” organizations that support SOPA (RIAA, MPAA), if not more. In fact, the only area the computer industry is mentioned in relation to the movie industry’s financial woes is in reference to new methods of content delivery:

5. Competition from other forms of delivery. Movies streaming over the internet are no longer a sci-fi fantasy. TV screens are growing larger and cheaper. Consumers are finding devices that easily play internet movies through TV sets. Netflix alone accounts for 30% of all internet traffic in the evening. That represents millions of moviegoers. They’re simply not in a theater. This could be seen as an argument about why newspapers and their readers need movie critics more than ever; the number of choices can be baffling.

While that could be seen as a subtle knock against those that pirate movies, the fact Ebert refers to movie-goers as “consumers” indicates he’s talking about those who acquire their movie content legally. Considering how much of a straight shooter Ebert is, if he wanted to blame movie pirates, he had the perfect platform to do so, and yet, he put the majority of the blame on ticket prices, lack of choice, and the “absence of a must-see mass-market movie.”

In other words, the fact that there wasn’t an Avatar or a new Dark Knight installment — next summer, folks — is a big part of what led to lower-than-expected revenue. Take the following numbers, for instance. According to Box Office Mojo, the highest grossing movie of 2011 was the last installment of the Harry Potter franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which made $381,011,219 as its total gross. In fact, that and the third Transformers movie, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, were the only two movies to break the $300 million mark.

Compared to 2009, the year Avatar came out, three movies broke the $300 million — with Avatar making an astounding $749,766,139. Besides the three that broke the $300 million barrier, there were two more that got close to breaking it as well, doing over $290 million worth of business.

So if pirates are to blame for lower revenues, what about when revenues are soaring? Did piracy somehow cease in 2009 because the movies were just too awesome to miss? Considering James Cameron believes his Avatar movie was “the most pirated movie ever,” that sounds like a big no.

So what gives? Are these movie revenue woes due to rampant piracy, something SOPA/PIPA looks to eradicate, or, as Ebert says, a number of reasons, including lack of choice, expensive tickets, and overpriced theater experiences? Let us know what you think.