Only two days after Disney/Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” premiered overseas, the superhero tentpole had already been widely illegally pirated — with copies popping up like weeds on multiple torrents and illegal streaming sites. While Disney can’t be happy about that, the piracy activity didn’t derail “Endgame’s” trajectory of having the biggest movie opening ever. And it’s also possible that a percentage of the digital pirates accessing the illegal copies will wind up seeing it in theaters.
The three-hour movie raked in $305 million in its first two days of global release in 46 markets, led by a record-breaking $154 million take in China. After a huge $60 million in Thursday previews, “Avengers: Endgame” hit theaters widely in North America on Friday the 25th with a projected opening-weekend box office of around $300 million, but in actuality made a little over $357 million — which easily topped “Avengers: Infinity War,” the prequel that garnered $257.7 million in the first three days of its release in April 2018.
Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. said, “It’s very difficult to quantify the impact of pre-release piracy for a movie like “Avengers: Endgame,” The biggest question is what portion of those people who streamed or downloaded illegal copies of the movie would not have paid anything at all — and more importantly, how many will go see it in the theater anyway.
Robbins was quoted as saying “I’d postulate ‘Endgame’ has a higher degree of immunity than most films [to piracy] because it’s a movie that demands to be experienced on the big screen with an audience,”Disney’s global release strategy for “Endgame” — virtually day-and-date around the world — was designed to limit the appeal of pirated versions. But within hours of its debut in China, a low-quality video-cammed version of “Avengers: Endgame” was already in heavy circulation on piracy networks and making the rounds internationally on most of the torrent sites.
Since then, better and better, higher-quality copies have popped up. On one popular file-sharing site on Friday, May 10, at least 13 different copies of “Avengers: Endgame” were being shared among more than 75,000 users. The piracy of “Avengers: Endgame” has “become an issue, but certainly not a crisis.” Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations said: “Disney, like every other studio, is obviously concerned, but with [‘Avengers: Endgame’] turning box office records into dust, I’m sure they’ll take it in relative stride.”
“If it had become wholly out of control, we probably wouldn’t see overseas audiences getting releases ahead of North American moviegoers.”The “decidedly non-event nature” of the movie’s pirated copies will likely have a slight effect on the box-office bottom line, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “The film is already breaking global records left and right and most of the true fans will not want to see this film on the small screen until its legitimate home-video release,” he said.
However, some industry observers believe piracy undoubtedly works to depress box office to some extent, and perhaps even more so cut into sales and rentals in the home-video window.
“The huge proliferation of movie copies available on easily find-able and well-curated pirate services will have a direct impact on revenue in realistic terms it could be up to 10% of the movies overall earnings,” said Simon Williamson, chief commercial officer of Friend MTS, a provider of anti-piracy services.The battle against piracy continues to be a “cultural issue that needs to be addressed,” Williamson continued,
“to help people understand that piracy is theft and it financially impacts everyone who works in the industry.”
Ultimately, most first released pirated copies of a movie “are nearly unwatchable,” Bock said. “Hopefully those that can afford to attend movies will likely seek out ‘Endgame’ in theaters to enjoy the complete experience.”
Disney has not responded to requests for comment on the movie’s piracy. Interest in pirated versions of “Avengers: Endgame” had soared in the first three days after the initial overseas release on April 22, with Google searches for “Avengers endgame torrent” peaking at around 5 a.m. ET on April 26, at about 100 million according to stats from the internet company. Meanwhile, Endgame had already suffered from having to deal with a major leak nearly a week before the international release with an extremely spoiler-rich video clip, subtitled in Arabic, hitting internet sites.
The movie, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, stars an ensemble cast reprising their Marvel character roles: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Karen Gillan, Danai Gurira, Bradley Cooper, and Josh Brolin. “Avengers: Infinity War,” which also was directed by the Russo Brothers, grossed $2 billion at the box office worldwide.
So far “Avengers: Endgame” has to date earned almost 2.5 billion worldwide in 15 days since it’s US release. Smashing box office records. But, to put that into realistic terms.. if Avengers Endgame only lost 5% of its potential box office earnings through piracy it should have made at least an additional $125 million dollars, so far.