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.
“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.