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Estimating the effects of movie piracy on box-office revenue

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  • W. D. Walls

    (University of Calgary)

  • A. DeVany

Abstract

Piracy is one of the most challenging problems faced by the motion picture industry. The Motion Picture Association of America estimates that US studios lose more than $3 billion annually in box office revenue from piracy. They have launched a major effort to prevent these losses. Yet their efforts are hampered by the ex post, counterfactual, and indirect methods by which losses are usually estimated. This paper addresses these issues directly. We develop and estimate a statistical model of the effects of piracy on the box-office performance of a widely-released movie. The model discredits the argument that piracy increases sales, showing unambiguously that Internet piracy diminished the box-office revenues of a widely released motion picture. The model overcomes a major weakness of counterfactual or “but for piracy†methods widely used to estimate damages. These counterfactual methods violate the “nobody knows†principle because they forecast what the movie would have earned in the absence piracy. The model we present does not violate this basic principle of motion picture uncertainty. We estimate that pre-release and contemporaneous Internet downloads of a major studio movie accelerated its box-office revenue decline and caused the picture to lose about $40 million in revenue.

Suggested Citation

  • W. D. Walls & A. DeVany, "undated". "Estimating the effects of movie piracy on box-office revenue," Working Papers 2014-56, Department of Economics, University of Calgary, revised 23 Sep 2014.
  • Handle: RePEc:clg:wpaper:2014-56
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. De Vany, Arthur S. & Walls, W. David, 2004. "Motion picture profit, the stable Paretian hypothesis, and the curse of the superstar," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 1035-1057, March.
    2. David Maddison, 2004. "Increasing returns to information and the survival of broadway theatre productions," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(10), pages 639-643.
    3. W. Walls, 2005. "Modeling Movie Success When ‘Nobody Knows Anything’: Conditional Stable-Distribution Analysis Of Film Returns," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 29(3), pages 177-190, August.
    4. De Vany, Arthur & Lee, Cassey, 2001. "Quality signals in information cascades and the dynamics of the distribution of motion picture box office revenues," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(3-4), pages 593-614, March.
    5. De Vany, Arthur & Walls, W David, 1996. "Bose-Einstein Dynamics and Adaptive Contracting in the Motion Picture Industry," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(439), pages 1493-1514, November.
    6. De Vany, Arthur S & Walls, W David, 1997. "The Market for Motion Pictures: Rank, Revenue, and Survival," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(4), pages 783-797, October.
    7. Arthur De Vany & W. Walls, 1999. "Uncertainty in the Movie Industry: Does Star Power Reduce the Terror of the Box Office?," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer;The Association for Cultural Economics International, vol. 23(4), pages 285-318, November.
    8. Chris Hand, 2001. "Increasing returns to information: further evidence from the UK film market," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(6), pages 419-421.
    9. W. David Walls, 1997. "Increasing returns to information: evidence from the Hong Kong movie market," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(5), pages 287-290.
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    Keywords

    motion-picture industry; counterfeiting and piracy; nobody knows;

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    Statistics

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