Late last week EFA (Electronic Frontiers Australia) launched caniwatchit.com.au, which compares the most pirated movies to their availability on the digital stores of iTunes, Google Play and Netflix. It revealed that 7 out of the 10 most pirated movies last week were not available for purchase digitally. Although it got a lot of traction online, its methodology is really quite flawed – as we pointed out on Reckoner over the weekend.
In short, the problem was that most of the movies listed were still only in cinemas and not even available digitally in the US, so really it was comparing apples with oranges.
All the discussions about the EFA site got me thinking about what the situation actually was, so I decided to do some of my own research on this issue.
I’ve compared two things in my analysis:
- the delay for a movie to come to cinemas in Australia (compared to the US)
- the delay between a movie being released on DVD and digitally in Australia (compared to the US)
Every movie surveyed had its Australian DVD/Digital release delayed by an average of 57 days.
- I found a list of movies that were released on DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital in the United States in July. There were 34 movies on this list.
- I looked up every movie on IMDb and wrote down the US box office numbers for the opening weekend.
- I selected the 10 movies with the highest box office numbers. From there I noted down the US/Australian cinematic release date, again from IMDb. I used the public release date, not a premiere or film festival date.
- I noted the DVD/Blu-Ray/Digital release date for the US and Australia (where I used STACK, VideoEzy, EzyDVD)
(I haven’t compared availability on digital stores in this particular analysis.)
It’s fair to say the DVD/Digital movie releases for the US in July is pretty dismal for the most part. Nevertheless, by comparing cinema release dates in the US vs cinema release dates in Australia and DVD/Digital release dates in the US vs DVD/Digital release dates in Australia, I think we get a far more appropriate and fair perspective on what I call ‘the Australian Delay’ when it comes to movies.
Note: Just a bit of an explainer for the below chart; for each movie there is a separate timeline bar for Australia and the US.
Within each timeline bar there may be a dark grey bar at the start which represents the cinematic release delay if it exists (for example for Noah the US release was delayed by 1 day compared to Australia).
When the bar turns blue (US) or green (Australia), that is when it was released in cinemas – it turns light grey to represent the period where it isn’t shown by cinemas and is not yet available on DVD/Digital.
Finally, when it turns red (US) or gold (Australia), that is when it becomes available on DVD/Digital.
There are some notable and frustrating delays in cinema release dates, Rio 2 being the most extreme example, but they aren’t extremely egregious for the most part. Perhaps influenced by the rather low key DVD/Digital launches in July (in the US), there were 2 movies (Cesar Chavez and The Unknown Knowns) which had no widespread Australian cinema release that I could find – perhaps in part due to the topics of these movies.
Fun fact: the movie soundtracks for both Cesar Chavez and The Unknown Knowns are available in the Australian iTunes Store – a small but powerful anecdote of the difference in the movie and music markets in 2014.
Where it gets really interesting is when you look at the delay between a US DVD/Digital release of a movie and when it becomes available in Australia on DVD/Digital.
Every single movie surveyed had its Australian DVD/Digital release delayed when compared to the US, by an average of 57 days (excluding the 2 movies that have yet to get an Australian release date).
Here’s another visualisation: the below chart is simply focused on quantifying the cinema release delay and the DVD/Digital release delay – it has the same data as above, but in a different format.
What all of this research and analysis shows is that the core point that EFA was trying to make–that Australians face delays in legitimately purchasing movies–is largely correct.
But it is extremely frustrating to see the EFA to make this point with a misconceived (maybe even disingenuous) methodology that really just works against them.