American Sniper Takes Home the Award for...Most-Pirated Film

After monitoring millions of illegal downloads of Oscar-nominated films for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress in the US and more than 200 countries worldwide from January 15 through February 14, the most-pirated film trophy goes to…American Sniper.

Research from Irdeto showed that while Gone Girl was the early frontrunner after nominations, American Sniper took the lead and then stayed there. It has had 1.34 million downloads worldwide since Jan. 15; making it not only the top title downloaded in the US but also 100 other countries.

Overall, Irdeto found that there was a 385% increase in piracy worldwide for the nominated films, following the announcements on January 15. In total, some $40 million in retail revenue was potentially lost from screeners for American Sniper, The Imitation Game, Wild, Selma, Whiplash and Still Alice alone.

Interestingly, the copies given to film critics, awards voters and other film industry professionals by studios for advanced screening of films accounted for a substantial 31% of the total illegal downloads tracked. But the other 69% were true piracy cases, spurred by windowing decisions on the part of studios. The nominations came out, but many of the films weren’t available at the time via legal channels like theatrical release, Blu-ray and DVD, or streaming services. The illegal market was happy to fill the gap.

“Our data clearly shows that the rest of the world is paying attention to the Academy Awards and there is significant demand for new movies to be available earlier, in more geographies and over more platforms,” said Rory O’Connor, vice president of services at Irdeto, in a statement. “In the world of internet re-distribution, the window between theatrical release and worldwide market availability may simply be too long, leaving room for pirates to take advantage and offer consumers alternative means of instant gratification. Today’s consumers simply refuse to wait to access these movies through legitimate services.”

While Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, and Two Days, One Night were released for VOD, streaming, Blu-ray, and DVD through distributors in the United States and select countries worldwide prior to the awards, this did not actually slow down piracy due to the windowing gap between theatrical release and consumer availability. For example, Two Days, One Night leaked on September 28, 2014 and retail release in the U.S. was on October 20, 2014. Some films have already leaked, and the window is still quite far out. Still Alice leaked November 27, 2014 and is not scheduled for release in the U.S. until July 2015, while American Sniper leaked January 6, 2014, and no release date is currently scheduled.

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