Loving Film In A Time Of Lockdown

Loving Film In A Time Of Lockdown

As featured on Forbes.

As of the end of March 2020 more than a third of the world’s population is on COVID-19 lockdown. Working from home and social distancing has become the new normal, with Zoom and Slack being our new office spaces. Online food delivery companies are booming as the corner-stone of the social-distancing business model, while music artists are live-streaming to stay connected to their fans. Netflix is lowering bandwidth across Europe to cope with demand. Meanwhile, Tencent is reporting a huge surge in their online gaming platform NetEase in virus quarantined China.

We may be out of this by June - or as soon as Easter if Donald Trump is to be believed - but even in a short space of time it has become apparent that some things have changed irrevocably and forever.

One of those things is Cinema.

The widely reported decimation of cinema box offices receipts is hardly surprising given current restrictions on travel. But when one considers that Spain’s cinema taking was down 99.8% over the weekend March 13-15, it’s the stuff of nightmares that not even John Carpenter could conjure up.

When Universal Pictures announced the move to stream movies on the same day that they are released in cinema, and that newly released titles like the Invisible Man, The Hunt and Emma are being made available online mere days after appearing in now shuttered movie theatres, the beleaguered cinemas will have shuddered. Take away the ninety-day window between general release and home viewing, and you take away a cinema’s raison d’etre.

Who can blame the studios though? With a quite literally captive audience, to do otherwise would be commercial suicide. In addition to fighting declining box office receipts, they also have to contend with dramatically increasing piracy as MUSO’s data is starting to indicate. Anecdotally it stands to reason: if you’re stuck at home with the kids and can’t get to the cinema, why would you not find that film online with one simple click?

No surprise then that Popcorn time - the Netflix of piracy - relaunched last week with a new manifesto to provide ‘free’ entertainment during the COVID-19 lockdown. A streaming app powered by torrents, Popcorn Time tweeted: “Love in the Time of Corona Version 0.4 is out” before relaunching. This single act of marketing saw it trending across social networks and receiving a slew of press coverage and tabloid headlines, announcing its renewed presence to a whole new audience of work-from-homers.

The pandemic will change many aspects of life as we knew it. Life before and life after the virus. It’s a black swan event. There will, of course, be commercial casualties but digital services appear largely resilient.

But this could spell the end of cinema as we know it. Some, like the forward-thinking independent chain Curzon, already offer memberships that allow you to stream their latest films at home or watch at one of their high-end cinemas. But it is going to take an immense appetite for adaptability from an industry that has broadly stayed the same since its inception over a century ago.

If art imitates life, then it will be survival of the fittest; perhaps even survival of the fastest. Piracy - like pornography - has always been at the cutting edge of technologies and understanding what people want and how to deliver it. Licensing restrictions, long-held deals and outmoded structures have perhaps held some creative industries back from embracing the true on-demand all-you-can-eat-when-you-want-it model, but this enforced change of habits due to social isolation might very well change the world of media, business and consumption forever. Which of these companies adapts to the new normal most successfully is yet to be seen, but when the dust settles the cinema landscape will look very, very different.

Contact MUSO today to find out more about data driven content protection.

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MUSO has published a new white paper; Coronavirus, Contagion And The Movie Industry: The New Going Viral. In this paper, we discuss the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on illegal streaming, the movie industry and box office revenues. Download the white paper to find out more.


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MUSO is a data company that provides the most complete and trusted view of unlicensed media consumption and global piracy demand. MUSO’s unrivalled dataset measures a vast high intent audience that is not influenced by licensing restriction or platform bias. Whether protecting IP or building winning content strategies, MUSO helps companies make better decisions that drive performance, ROI and value.