It feels like an odd juxtaposition. Despite the presentation of digital media taking leaps and bounds towards high definition and specifically tailored viewing experiences, there still seems to be viewers willing to watch a brand new release interrupted mid-way through by a punter with a weak bladder. Even more shocking is the fact that footage like this still exists and manages to make it online in the first place. Call us old fashioned but the idea of rocking up to a multiplex with a camcorder in-hand, hitting record and lasting the full runtime without getting caught feels not only dated but surely painfully obvious to detect. Reassuringly however, only around 24% of people admit to being open to pirating a movie while it’s still in the cinemas - but maybe the comfort afforded by home-viewing platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime will soon skew that data.
Alfonso Cuarón’s recent awards-hog Roma could be an interesting case-in-point. As a monotone foreign language drama, Cuarón’s personal tale of his Mexican upbringing is far from the most accessible movie for mainstream audiences more accustomed to superheroes and wars in the stars. However despite these populist hurdles Roma has quickly developed a word-of-mouth audience to match the critical praise its received. Could its Netflix accessibility have encouraged unlikely, on-the-fence viewers to take a punt on it when whipping out their wallets may have seemed too hard a bargain? With this in mind, maybe fans’ urge to watch even the dodgiest quality pirate movie comes from an odd place of support. When times are tough, disposable income is scarce and your enjoyment of an awards contender is far-from guaranteed - are viewers turning to piracy as a way to widen their cinematic tastes without the financial risk?
It’s a scenario that’s far from ideal - and one that’s unlikely to end anytime soon. As long as there are new releases, there will likely be illegal streamed copies of them available online. The reason why people pirate movies may remain unclear but the ultimate resolution of this enduring dilemma seems to lie more with people’s morals than their wallets. Fans wanting to support cinema and the colourful voices its showcases will undoubtedly pay for the pleasure of being whisked away to a new on-screen world. There may even be a glimmer of hope on the flip side of the coin, too. While those pirating their movies lose out on the experience of seeing a zeitgeisty new release with a group of like-minded individuals, if their sofa-stint with a screener strikes a chord, it could transform them into a lifelong (and with any luck, paying) fan of left-field cinema. Here's hoping.
Would you consider watching a pirated movie? Let me know in the comments below!