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Experts Warn Warner Bros.’ 2021 Strategy Could Result in Movie Piracy ‘Bonanza’

Photo by Alex Avalos via Unsplash

Experts Warn Warner Bros.’ 2021 Strategy Could Result in Movie Piracy “Bonanza”

By Movieguide® Staff

Experts recently warned that media pirates would have a field day with the amount of high-quality uploads hitting the streaming market.

They sounded the alarm after Disney announced a slew of new content hitting Disney+ next year, as well as Warner Bros.’ decision to move all their 2021 releases to HBO Max the same day they hit theaters.

Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter noted: “[Warner] is pretending that pirates won’t pounce as soon as these films are streaming on HBO Max.”

Meanwhile, 2021 could be a historic moment for movie piracy.

Many exhibitors, analysts, and filmmakers were outraged at Warner Bros. studio’s deal with HBO Max. However, movie pirates cheered.

“For sure, pirates are celebrating WarnerMedia’s decision,” Abigail De Kosnik, director of the Berkeley Center for New Media, said.

The theatrical release window typically provided a barrier against high-quality piracy that would hurt a movie’s revenue earnings.

The usual pirate copies are low-quality video from a handheld camera. However, the new format may result in an intense erosion of domestic and international box office revenue.

“If a film is made available in the U.S. on HBO Max, a high-quality pirate copy is going to be available on every pirate service in the world that same day,” Andy Chatterley, CEO of U.K.-based piracy data and analytics company Muso, said.

Chatterley added: “We’ve never seen so many big-budget movies hit pirate networks so quickly. The piracy rates are going to be staggering—that’s just inevitable.”

According to De Kosnik, evidence of this happened when Disney released their MULAN remake on their streaming platform. MULAN had 21.4 million illegal downloads in the 12 weeks post-release.

Neil Gane, general manager of the Asia Video Industry Association’s Coalition Against Piracy, notes that the COVID-19 related lockdowns and stay-at-home orders increased piracy prospects in many places.

“For example, during the peak lockdown period in Southeast Asia from the end of March to mid-May, we saw a proportionate spike there in usage of both pirate streaming and legal streaming platforms,” Gane explained.

While movie piracy has thrived for the past 20 years, the influx of streaming platforms and COVID-19’s demolition of the traditional box office could spell disaster for cinemas and a golden age for movie pirates.

“Pirates will enjoy a real bonanza next year because of the WarnerMedia decision,” Kosnik added.

This could just be one more nail in the theater coffin.


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