Of carpenters and movie piracy

While we're on the topic of movie piracy today, I'd like to chime in on the MPAA "policy" advertisements that have been airing since August on movie screens prior to major feature films. This ridiculous campaign is certainly rubbing me the wrong way and I don't think I'm the only one.

For those who haven't seen these yet, they are aimed at convincing the audience that some poor carpenter (who met his wife on the set of "The Big Chill") is going to lose his livelihood because of movie piracy. The claim made by the carpenter is that the movie headliners (actors, directors, studios, investors) aren't affected by piracy, but that it is the little guy (the carpenter, the electrician, the set painter, the guy who makes the donuts) whose jobs are in jeopardy because of the copying of a single film.

I don't doubt that this guy was told this by Jack Valenti and truly believes it, but that doesn't make it so. I have a very difficult time believing that the question of a 10-20% additional sales (industry estimates) that would come from a drop in piracy would be seen in the paycheck of people who are a fixed cost for a film. Film producers and studios are always trying to cut the fixed costs to conform to their budgets, and they are unlikely to change these costs substantially due to a perceived change in the possible outcome.

However, actors, producers, the studios, and the investors are also paid off of the profits of the film, which is where the real money is to be made. The number of carpenters who have ever managed to pull a percentage of a films gross is likely very limited (yeah, limited to zero). While the "big guys" take home millions in additional cash if a movie like The Two Towers exceeds its $94M budget (which it did by over $300M), the "little guys" have already been paid scale and that's all that they are going to get besides the satisfaction of being able to say that they worked on the film.

In the end of the day, if the MPAA wants to know why people don't care about pirating their wares, I think that they need to look at other issues, such as the growing price of movies in the theater and these kinds of ridiculous and transparent assertions that they make in an attempt to woo public opinion.

At the end of the day, a $5 movie ticket from 1990 should cost about $7 now based on the rates of inflation. However, I'm paying $8.50 here in Reston and I know it is more in other locations. Somehow I don't believe I'm getting a 20% better quality product.

Add to that the growing number of ads that I must sit through after I pay to see a movie and I don't quite understand why they are complaining about making money. In the end of the day, part of the reason to go to the theater instead of watching TV was to avoid the ads. However, I'm sure that and the increasing prices have nothing to do with the ability to make money...