The entertainment world is in a rapid state of decline. One could argue this is due to the quality of film and television, though that is all a matter of opinion and not mathematical fact. The problem is, frankly, that movies and TV cost more to produce because everyone involved, from the producers to the stars to the FX folks, want more and more money to do their jobs. There’s only one way to pay for that…pass it on to us.

I used to go to a movie almost every week. So far this year I’ve only been to two, Avengers and Prometheus, and there are only a few more I have any desire to see. Why? Yes, there’s the quality issue. I have no desire to see Spider-man get bit again, or to see Will Smith do the Men in Black schtick yet again. But the real reason is money. Taking my whole family to a matinee – a matinee – costs me nearly $30. For Prometheus it was just my girlfriend and I. There were no matinees available. It cost me $25 for two tickets. Not for 3D or IMAX, for regular old 2D on an average screen. We didn’t get popcorn. We didn’t get soda. Those are Minnesota prices by the way. When I took my whole family to go see The Dark Knight we lived in California, and it cost me $60…again, no IMAX, no popcorn, no soda, and that was back in 2008.

Then there’s TV…now that’s a laugh! As I’ve told everybody over and over, I got rid of cable a few months back. I was paying $162 a month for a cable / internet package. Now I pay $52. Upon hearing that I got rid of cable, my friend asked me, “Dude, how do you live?” Quite simply put, I live just fine. I still see the handful of shows I love – 30 Rock, Avengers, Family Guy, The Walking Dead – but now I download the individual episodes through the Playstation Store. On a busy month I may spend up to $40 on TV shows. With most of those shows on summer hiatus, I now spend less than $10.

Once upon a time I was big into illegal downloading. I mostly swiped music, but every now and then I’d pick up a movie or TV show. Despite Hollywood’s insistence that I should look back in abject shame at my “crime,” I don’t. I only stopped illegally downloading because it wasn’t worth the constant threat of a virus taking down my computer. That and I saw the way “pirates” were being crucified if they got caught. One poor bastard who dared to download Ang Lee’s…ahem…“masterpiece,” Hulk, wound up losing everything he owned and went to jail. He would have gotten an easier sentence if he just got caught shoplifting the DVD.

Hollywood wants you to believe that you downloading Avengers is going to throw poor, hard working union folks out of work. After all, if you cut into a studios profits they have to make up the money somehow, don’t they? All those poor gaffers and caterers.

Here’s the thing though: Robert Downey, Jr. made over $50 million for Avengers. Is he going to donate that money to make sure the studios don’t have to fire those affected by all the horrible, evil criminals who downloaded the Joss Whedon film? Hell, even half of what he made on Avengers would pay the salaries of an entire Hollywood film.

Speaking of Avengers, that movie has been illegally downloaded a lot. Anyone who wants to watch it right now on their computer can do so with just a simple Google search. Yet as of the time of this writing the movie is the third highest grossing film of all time. There were quite a few pirated versions of Avatar floating around back in Christmas 2009, but that movie went on to make more than any movie has in history.

Now, does pirating movies cost studios money? Of course it does. John Carter was file shared more than any other movie last month, yet it flopped at the box office. If all those who downloaded it paid to see the movie in the theater it wouldn’t have flopped quite so epically at the box office…oh it still would have flopped, but maybe it wouldn’t have been Disney’s biggest mistake in history.

Here’s the problem: Most of the people who downloaded John Carter wouldn’t have gone to see it in the theater. They downloaded it because they didn’t have the money for a movie ticket, or because the trailers didn’t sell them and they didn’t want to pay an outrageous amount of money to be let down. Should they have paid for a ticket? That’s a moral debate, and that’s not what I’m here to talk about. What I’m saying is, John Carter didn’t bomb because of some teenage girl sitting at her computer with too much time on her hands. It bombed because the studio spent upwards of $300 million on a single film. Studios need to wake up to the fact that not every movie is going to make a billion dollars at the box office.

Now Hollywood wants us to believe that laws need to be put in place, to protect their profits from the big bad pirates. They think we need to have our on-line freedoms stripped away so they can make more money on a business model that doesn’t make sense in a digital world. HBO wants to see Netflix fail so people will continue to overpay for the occasional good movie and Game of Thrones. Networks continue to cancel shows that under perform in primetime but are huge on iTunes.

And film studios? They churn out movie after movie that cost $200 million to make and another $100 million to market and are shocked that they aren’t making their money back in the middle of a recession. Do they scale back their movies massive budgets? Do stars take a pay cut? No, instead hard working union members, the men and women who put nails in sets and load trucks, are let go. Hollywood wants you to think that’s the fault of on-line pirates. What do you think?

By James

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