2006-06-29

Report: File sharing does not influence movie theater ticket or DVD sales

The Swedish daily GP (Gothenburg Post) had an interesting piece the other day. It claims that downloading of copyrighted materials does not cause much losses for the copyright holders.

Those that download movies from the internet does not shun the theaters and doesn't skip renting a movie. On the contrary, they are keen consumers of both movie theater visits and DVDs. This is revealed in a new report.

The movie theater visits in Sweden has steadily decreased. Last year there was 14.6 million visits to the theaters thoughout the country. Thirty years ago, that figure was almost three times as high and in the last two years alone the visits have decreased with four million. On the DVD market, the number of movies sold has increased, but the value of the total market has still been unchanged.

The movie industry has seen the illegal downloading of movies from the internet as one of the reasons that less people buy their products. But according to a new study from the SOM institute that is not the case.

- If you look at the population in general it is those who download movies who also visits the movie theaters most often and rents the most dvd movies, says Rudolf Antoni, candidate for the doctoral program in journalism and mass communication and the one responsible for the study where 1800 people has been interviewed on various topics, including movie theater habits.

Youmg men with home access to alot of technology is the group that downloads the most movies. The fact that they are also the most frequent movie theater visitors has been partially explained with notions that they belong to an age group that visits the theaters more often.

- But the downloading has no negative effect even if you only compare the age group up to 30 years old. There, everyone goes to the theaters equally much, if they download movies or not, says Rudolf Antoni.


This is a fascinating report with important results.

It shows that the panic over the waning sales of the movie industry can no longer be blamed on file sharing. File sharing is now documented not to influence the sale figures.

One might be urged to say that this report claims that file sharing is good for the sale figures. That may be so, but I'm quite sceptical about that - if an even larger segment of the population was downloading movies in the manner that the group "young men with home access to alot of technology" perhaps the general picture would be different, and it would lead to a slight decrease, albeit not a significant one.

However, it shows what file sharing advocates have claimed for quite a while by now - that the reason that people share movies with each other is that they simply like movies. In itself, that is a fact that should be received with big smiles from the movie producers, especially now, when it seems that the file sharers are not only the most eager consumers, but also the best customers as well.

In any account, the movie industry needs to find other reasons why their sales are decreasing. Perhaps they make inferior products. Perhaps they are marketing their products in a flawed way. Perhaps their distribution methods are outdated? Such things have been claimed by various file sharing advocates through-out the debate. If the movie industry is going to claim that their sales are decreasing in such a level that the very existance of their industry is at jeopardy, it would definately be in their interest to do an honest investigation of the real reasons.

But somehow I doubt that this will happen, something tells me that the movie industry will instead continue to blame their best customers instead of evaluating their own flaws. This is confirmed in the same GP article.

Jan Bernhardsson is CEO at SF Cinemas. Even if the new studies shows that file sharing on the internet might not be the explanation for the decrease of ticket sales, he doesn't feel calm at all.

- Absolutely not. Downloading is a real threat. Indirectly it provides a serious threat against the entire movie industry. If those producing the movies doesn't get paid there is no basis for investment. Then they can't produce any new movies, which also influence us negatively, he says.


This is a shame, since what they are doing is lobbying for a further criminalization of file sharers, and trying to push on us a concensus that file sharers are immoral and a threat. And now it seems that that those they want to outlaw and outcast are in fact their best customers.

Perhaps it is this arrogant attitude that is actually the bulk of the problem?

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