Of Piracy, Screeners And Indian Release Dates.

It’s been quite some time since the last post. 20 days. That’s really depressing. Until the end of January, I was preoccupied with examinations, so I have a reason for skipping a week. But the last week was totally unproductive, and all I did was download movies, hoping to watch one of them and write a review.

But, no movie this week. Instead, I’ll be writing about something that struck me about half an hour ago.

Every year since I recognized the quality of movies in Hollywood, which is 4 years, I resolved to watch all the Oscars Nominated movies before the awards day. But I fall short, by a huge number of movies, which is why I didn’t have that resolution last year. But this year promised a lot of free time, and I decided to take a shot at it again.

I was attending a highly important family function in the end of January, when examinations were drawing to an end. Usually, there are a few cousins with whom I spend the whole night talking. Or watching movies. To my dismay, most of them weren’t coming to this event. Which called for immediate formulation of contingency plans to make the night enjoyable, if the plans (involving me) drawn by other people fail. If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, then you probably know what my plans were.

Movies. The Oscar nominees list was out a week ago to the day of the plan formulation, which made narrowing down easy. I was looking online for movies to download when I was struck by what I found.

I found the torrents of 13 movies in the Oscars Nominees list. And I didn’t even start digging seriously.

Thirteen movies, all in the first position on the Google search results.

I stopped there, and decided to download a couple, and take a shot at the rest later.

And then, today, a little intensive digging, I found another 12 movies online. That’s 25 out of the 36 movies in the list.

The Jury receives screeners of the movie from the producer. We, the audience, on the other hand, receive 1080p quality, or at least the DVDrip. For people in India, or much precisely, people like me in India, this is a boon. I always have a to-watch list. I watch a few movies in the theaters, but it is impossible for me to watch all of them in the theaters.

So, I end up downloading them. American Sniper, The Theory Of Everything and The Imitation Game all hit the screens the same week here. Now, I started writing exams at the end of December, and they ended on the 31st, by which date most of those movies would probably be replaced or ignored to make way for much more awaited Bollywood or Tollywood films. So, dirty tactics. Torrents.

The industry, in their attempt to reduce piracy, tries to prevent, or at least, reduce the number of leaked screeners. Screeners are usually out due to some irregularity in the distribution chain. Someone, somewhere in the chain, puts out a screener, with the watermark intact, for the world to see. Which I really appreciate. But across the last few years, the number of leaked screeners reduced by a good margin. Does this mean that the industry is winning the war against piracy?

No. For me, the fact that the number of leaked screeners are reducing suggests that piracy is not being defeated, but growing stronger with technology.

The point is quite simple. Here’s an example: I downloaded the screeners of The Imitation Game, The Theory Of Everything and American Sniper, and watched the first two movies. the print was very good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But, a few days before my exams, I was at a friend’s place, watching Whiplash in WEB-DL version. While I appreciate the screener prints, I prefer watching the WEB-DL version.

What’s different? People do not care for screeners anymore. Screeners are the last option that the audience considers, because there’s every chance that a better version of the movie is already out somewhere. The logic is quite simple. The audience prefers HD sources to DVD screeners. Imagine that a movie has already been leaked online, someone put uploaded a HDRip. So, even of you get your hands on the DVD screener version, you wouldn’t release it online, because you know that there’ll be no takers.

And for guys like me, living in a country where most Hollywood movies release way after the dates in the USA and the UK, we usually get the pirated version of the movie long before the Indian release date. And usually, Hollywood movies are screened at really uncomfortable timings, and most of us just kill our long-standing wish of watching it in the theatre and settle for watching it at home, on a smaller screen, but at a ridiculously better print.

Of course, movies in the IMAX format will run for a long time, here in Hyderabad, but the other movies come and go quickly. On top of that, the Indian Censor Board will cut out anything and everything, and for half of the running time left after the cuts, there will be a ‘Cigarette Smoking Is Injurious To Health’ warning at the bottom of the screen. I really can’t imagine watching the Dollars Trilogy with the warning, because Clint Eastwood is smoking almost all through the three movies. I have never watched a Tarantino or a Scorsese movie on the big screen, but I really do not appreciate the idea of censor cuts and the smoking warning.

So, I settle for piracy.

Long live torrents.

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