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By Doug Brunell | July 7, 2004

As movie lovers, we’ve been hearing a lot of talk, mostly from the MPAA, about downloading movies from the Internet. Apparently this is putting gaffers out of jobs and really pissing off Ben Affleck. (Who is he fooling anyway? He never downloaded a porn movie, some sexy anime or a Kevin Smith film? Come on!) As with most things, I have an opinion on this, though I’m kind of on the fence.

I can honestly say I never downloaded a Hollywood or indie movie. I’ve gotten snippets of porn movies sent to me by other people, but you won’t find Spun on my hard drive. There are several reasons for this. The first and foremost is that my computer is too slow. Hell, it still operates off cards. Then there is the fact that I find watching films on the computer to be highly impersonal. I have a fairly decent home theatre system, so going to stereo on a tiny screen isn’t exactly a step up. I also want to support the art of film, and the way to do that is with the dollar. That said, I can see reasons for downloading films.

Ticket prices are way too high, as is the price of theatre “food.” Most movies these days suck, too, which only adds insult to injury. The films that come from major studios also have a lot of money behind them, as do the stars, so if they don’t get a pirate’s ten bucks, it’s not that big of a deal. It becomes even less of an issue when you figure in the money brought in by all the cross promotional items like toys and fast food meal deals. People who download the movies don’t see their downloading as that big of a problem because — and let’s be honest — it probably isn’t. How much did illegal downloading hurt “The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”? That’s what I thought. Downloading movies hasn’t hurt the film industry nearly as much as it has hurt the music industry, so why the fuss?

If you listen to Affleck and company, downloading films is like taking food from their mouths. The best boy needs to eat, and Affleck needs to buy a new garage for all his cars. At least that’s the cynical way of looking at things. The fact is, downloading films really does take money away from people like movie theatre owners, which in turn affects their employees. If you don’t pay to see a movie, they don’t make money. If enough people continually do that, eventually people get laid off. And let’s not forget the royalties that are lost. Illegal downloading is theft, and there’s no real way to justify it…. until now.

When studios pump out films designed to steal your time and money, films like The Cat in the Hat, Autumn in New York and “Ernest Goes to Jail,” then it seems like stealing movies is equally justifiable. There’s no artistic merit to these films, and everyone involved with them is happy to get whatever money is to be gotten. They just hope enough people go to see them before they get wise to the fact that they’ve been ripped off. Maybe by then, the studio heads surmise, they may have made a small profit. It’s up to Internet pirates to show these fools that there really is no honor among thieves. Don’t steal something like the critically acclaimed American Beauty. Use that hard drive space for Garfield: The Movie. That’s really sticking it to the man.

Internet pirates aren’t going to go away … at least not until something else catches their fancy. What they can do, however, is use their power to send Hollywood an important message. They can say, “As long as you continue to put out crap, we’ll continue to steal it, costing you money. Put out quality films, and we’ll leave you alone. Hell, we’ll even go support them in the theatre.” If both sides could only meet in the middle, the world of film would be a much better place. Until that day happens, however, feel free to download the hell out of White Chicks, for you are the liberators of the future!

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>

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