Through all of the advertising and marketing of the Captain America movie, I managed to escape relatively unspoiled. I watched the teasers and the trailers as they appeared online or in front of movies in the cinema; I liked looking at the costume designs to see how them comic book character would be translated to a movie format. Up until the point where I saw the movie on opening night, I managed to keep up to date with the movie and keep myself interested without actually spoiling too much of the plot or ruining anything for myself. And it actually wasn’t that difficult. Well, apart from the last week before the movie opened, that is.
During the usual preamble before a movie starts in Ireland, there’s an announcement or ad from the Irish Film Board where they will thank you for paying to see the movie you’re watching and talk about the importance of not illegally downloading movies. Now, I don’t download movies. I’m a firm believer that if I want a product or service, I should pay for it (though I’ll try to pay as little as possible), but one thing that will make me want to see a movie before it’s released is if that movie is available in another area and half of the people I know are talking about how great the movie is and why they enjoyed it so much.
There was a one week delay between the release of Captain America in America and in Ireland. Sometimes a delay between release dates for a movie is understandable — generally, this is if there are a limited number of prints and those prints have to be distributed to different markets for staggered release. I’m fairly confident that this isn’t the case in this instance.
The world is a smaller place than it used to be, and it’s getting smaller every single day. The Internet has brought people together in a way that we wouldn’t have even dreamt about ten years ago. When people come together, they talk. And when nerds come together, they talk about movies.
It seems detrimental to me to stagger release dates in this brave new world where the push of a button or the click of a mouse can give you access to a movie that’s just not available in your region. If you want to stop movie piracy, there has to at least be some kind of tangible benefit in not illegally downloading. As it was, I had to be very careful of what links I clicked or what conversations I got in to before I went to see Captain America. In not downloading the movie, I had to curtail what I did and who I talked to for the entire week. This has happened a multitude of times before now, but Captain America is just the most recent example and, to be honest, I’m not even sure if there were any decent downloads available in the intervening week.
Another effect of a difference in release dates is that word of mouth can have a positive or negative effect on box office in regions where it’s released late. I will fully admit that I was looking forward to The Last Airbender. I thought the trailer was intriguing and I was pretty psyched to see it. But the movie was released in America before it was released in Ireland. Every single word that I read in that intervening period was negative, and I didn’t even read very deeply. I’m not one to pay that much heed to the opinions of reviewers, and I’m full well aware that the Internet is built on negativity, but when there’s such unanimous disdain for a movie, even I have to sit up and pay attention. The delay in release in Ireland lost the movie my admission money and I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who stayed away due to unfavourable word of mouth. I would have happily been conned into seeing the movie if there had been simultaneous release dates. That was a good result for me, but a bad result for the industry.
The film industry seems to exist on bad decisions these days, hoping that a bad decision in 3D will look like a good decision. But how the hell does it make sense to make people wait to pay money to see something that they can see for free at home at the push of a button?