Tuesday, May 04, 2010

LA Times Smacks Down Korea -- Why Exactly?

Very strange post on the LA Times' Big Picture movie blog (thanks to The Marmot for finding this) -- it talks about why Korea is getting IRON MAN 2 before Japan, saying that it is mostly because of Korea's high rates of online piracy.

I say strange because I have no idea why Korea is getting singled out. IRON MAN 2 was released in over 50 territories last weekend, all over the world. Day-and-date releases from Hollywood are increasingly the norm, and have been unremarkable for quite some time.

Big Hollywood films, especially those released in the May-June area, have usually been released in Korea at the same time as in the United States for years now. Korea usually saves up its big blockbusters for later in the summer, in July and August, often causing Hollywood films to move their opening dates to avoid the biggest Korean films then. But May is the biggest time of the year for Hollywood in Korea.

That said, even films that get a delayed release can do well. MAMMA MIA! was released in Korea two months after it was in the United States and much of the West, but it made $25 million in Korea and was the fifth-biggest film of 2008. Sure, Korea has a lot of online and offline piracy, but perhaps the situation is more nuanced (and profitable) than some people would like to bellyache.

I especially dislike media executives complaining about online piracy without any comment about what their RESPONSIBILITIES are. Like they can hold on to their movies, music, TV shows or whatever and release them whenever they want. Sorry, but this is the Internet age, and if you do not give customers a fair chance to buy your content, they are not going to wait patiently for you to release something when you feel like it. Yes, consumers need to respect copyright. But producers also have a responsibility to make sure their content is available in a timely, convenient manner.

The LA Times would have been much better off asking the more interesting question -- Why is Japan still releasing so many movies so much later than the rest of the world? The Japan market is the unusual one that needs an explanation, not Korea.

(And in case you are interested, the reason Hollywood films are released so much later in Japan has more to do with its tricky theatrical market than its respect for copyrights. In Japan, it can be hard to book screens, hard to market movies, there is relatively low theatrical attendance for the country's population, high ticket prices and a whole host of difficulties.)

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