Lifestyle: Studios Should Embrace Bootlegs

By Molly Freeman

Photo courtesy of Image Catalog.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of comic book, movie, and TV fans gather in San Diego for the annual Comic-Con International convention. Also gathered in the California city are producers, directors, and stars of many large movie and TV franchises who present exclusive new footage, concept art, photos, or other information about their upcoming releases.

However, every year bootleg versions of new trailers and footage crop up online shortly after SDCC panels present them. Although some studios release official versions of trailers online either simultaneously or shortly after they’re shown in San Diego, others only appear online in bootleg versions.

This year was no different, with poor quality versions of Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment’s first look at Suicide Squad and 20th Century Fox’s first Deadpool trailer hitting the web a few hours after they were shown at Comic-Con.

In response to the leaks, Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds told fans on Twitter that the trailer would be made available a few weeks later when the studio had finished finalizing its special effects. Warner Bros., on the other hand, released the official high definition version of the Suicide Squad the Monday after SDCC along with a statement chastising fans who had watched and shared the bootleg version.

However, certain fans were put off by the Warner Bros.’ tone when releasing the video. PBS Idea Channel host Mike Rugnetta rewrote the message to offer a more positive tone: “Warner Bros. Pictures are thrilled that over the last 48 hours countless numbers of our fans have been so excited to see exclusive footage from our upcoming Suicide Squad film that they’ve tolerated a low-quality version.”

Additionally fans continued to show support of the movie; despite being released two days after the Comic-Con trailer for Warner Bros.’ other upcoming film, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, the official Suicide Squad video quickly surpassed the other trailer in views.

This trend of viewers tuning in to watch media despite bootlegs can be seen in television as well. HBO’s Game of Thrones was 2014’s most pirated show, but that hasn’t stopped the fantasy series from gaining more and more legitimate viewers each season. The most recent season finale of Game of Thrones drew its biggest audience yet of 8.11 million viewers. Other ratings powerhouses like AMC’s The Walking Dead and CBS’s The Big Bang Theory are also some of the most pirated shows on TV.

There is still a discussion about if and how much money is being lost to illegal streaming and downloading. But, it’s also widely thought–even by those within the industry like Game of Thrones director David Petrarca–that the benefit of bootlegs creating buzz for the movie or TV series outweighs the cost.

Perhaps more studios, such as Warner Bros., should take a page out of Petrarca’s book and stop fearing bootlegs.