Blog Post

Sicko Leak Benefits Moore

Execs at the Weinstein Company announced this week that Michael Moore’s Sicko, scheduled to open nationwide on June 29, will open Friday on a single screen at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square theater in New York. Distributor Lionsgate, meanwhile, will be offering sneak preview screenings in 27 markets where Moore’s docs have played well in the past. The decision to open early, according to Weinstein execs, isn’t related to the film being widely distributed on the Internet.

So there’s a small conundrum for you. If the early release isn’t due to Internet piracy, then that piracy isn’t the profits-munching jabberwock studios say it is. On the other hand, if the film does poorly in theaters, does that give the lie to the oft-espoused idea (in techie circles anyway) that giving away content for free drives rather than undermines interest in a product? And if the film does well, does that mean piracy drove interest? And how much? The answer, undoubtedly, is similar to that old Tootsie Pop commercial: The world may never know.

But at least we know Michael Moore is pissed. Moore, apparently a fan of piracy when his movies aren’t being pirated, complained that the two users who uploaded Sicko to YouTube wanted to undermine the doc’s success.

“I think the people who probably linked [the film] had a vested interest in hoping that this movie would not do well at the box-office,” Moore told reporters at the premiere.

And to the Hollywood Reporter:

“Every filmmaker intends for his film to be seen on the big screen. This wasn’t a guy taking a video camera into a theater. This was an inside job, a copy made from a high-quality master and could potentially impact the opening weekend box office. Who do you think benefits from that?”

Oh c’mon. The video was seen on YouTube and Google Video about 1,000 times. Meanwhile, you get press in both the trade and consumer pubs. So who benefits? I think you benefit, Mikey. All the way to the bank.

7 Responses to “Sicko Leak Benefits Moore”

  1. Steve Bryant

    I agree with parts of what each of you say, which may be an indication of how confused this industry is right now.

    Let me be clear: I don’t think it’s morally acceptable to leak a movie onto the Internet. I do think piracy can create buzz, but I don’t know — and neither do you — what the trade off is between buzz and lost/gained sales at the box office. Whatever the answer, in this case, the main beneficiaries from the (very) temporary leak are Weinstein, Lionsgate, and Moore, each of which benefit from the increased press.

    The larger point is nobody understands (at least not that I’ve heard) what the biz model for the online age is yet. And the studios will spin this story whichever way is convenient.

  2. I watched it, uh, at someone else’s house. Since then I’ve Twittered about it, talked it up to at least four people, and even used examples from it to try and convince a libertarian that universal coverage is actually a great economic benefit.

    I also criticised how Moore’s stunts have repeatedly undermined what are, until he grandstands, smart, funny and sobering documentaries.

    That said, everyone should see it. See, there I go again!

  3. I’d estimate it only in the tens of thousands maybe over hundred thousand the amount of broadband users who figured out and cared to download Sicko on trackers sites or watch clips of it during the few hours it was partly up on youtube.

    A good part of those people probably are still going to watch it in the cinema if they have time to go to the cinema.

    But the most important effect I think is that since it is a good film, then word of mouth is currently spreading, and those tens of thousands of broadband internet users who have got a BitTorrent copy of it, are now talking about it to people who are talking about it to other people, and that word of mouth is currently reaching millions of people not only in America but also all over the world. And buzz is also higher on internationnal blogs thanks to this.

    Next up, Michael Moore should make a documentary about the crooks that are controling the film industry and cinema distribution worldwide. This is far from a democratic or fair industry, and it is near impossible for real talents to have the ressources to make good films.

  4. I have a buddy who downloaded and watched the rip in its entirety. After having done so, he was extolling the virtues of the film.

    His excitement was clear. He was running through his head (and aloud) all the people he was going to take to see the movie. As for himself, he’s “going to see it three times” in theaters.

    Piracy or not, if you create something that makes people think and talk, you will be rewarded.

  5. I would be pissed too if someone from the inside leaked my movie before the release date. I see no hypocrisy in punishing people who are trying to sabotage the movie premier. This is not some user who’s ripping a DVD so he can have a digital backup or sharing it with his buddy.