There’s a great New Zealand film called “Boy” – it’s a coming of age tale with a uniquely New Zealand flavour to it. It’s been in the cinemas here for three months, and it’s gone down very well. I’m probably not telling you anything you didn’t know, because the film has been well-promoted. I think I saw that it was now the highest-grossing New Zealand movie ever. Well done to Taika Waititi and every one else involved.
That’s what makes it strange that the film industry apparently hasn’t released the film to Australia. There are a *lot* of New Zealanders living there. And it’s not surprising, after all the promotion, that people there want to see the film however they can get it. According to a press release yesterday from the industry, they are indeed getting it, via infringing downloads on the Internet. The film apparently got to the Internet via a member of the industry itself, since the copy uploaded is a “pre-screener” available only within the industry.
What I find odd about this story is that anyone is surprised. Why would they expect New Zealanders and other folk to wait months for a well-promoted hit film? It’s not as though the technology for them to release it in other countries as a paid, legal download doesn’t exist. Why, then, leave a big market like unsatisfied with a legal product when they have alternatives?
The same industry has just claimed that unlawful downloads in New Zealand are costing it $70million. They say things like this all the time, but the truth is that no-one knows and there’s no way to calculate it. The US Government Accounting Office recently published a report saying that all such claims were totally overblown and were no basis for policy.
It’s no accident, of course, that this story blows just as Parliament is considering a Bill to fine people heavily or cut off their Internet for file sharing. The industry has obviously made a calculation about how late in the hype cycle for “Boy” it could go and still get close to the Select Committee hearings, likely to be next month.
This sort of thing has been going on for so long that I’m wondering if it is deliberate. Is it actually cheaper for the film industry to promote a film then not release it in a market, then to go after people who download it and try to seek large fines? Perhaps this is far-fetched, but I’m struggling to see any other reason.
In the meantime, congratulations to Taika Waititi. Let’s hope he gets the chance to get the film distribution industry to see some sense.
Update: Miraz Jordan has written an excellent piece on the same subject – well worth reading as well.