This is the kind of news that has the potential to be ignored by those who need to hear it most. If you already believe that movie piracy is hurting the industry, it’ll only serve to reinforce that view. If you believe that movie piracy is harmless, or that it acts as a kind of corrective to corporate control of art, it’s rationalization time. Maybe you weren’t a fan of this particular movie franchise, so what does it matter? Maybe you paid for it after you pirated, so how are you part of the problem?
For people who liked The ABCs of Death (or at least the much-improved second installment) and pirated it, the rationalization hopefully won’t come all that easily.
Producer Ant Timpson says they probably won’t make a third movie, and he blames people who watched it online without paying.
Tim [League] and I are thinking about it. At the end of the day, it’s a financial thing. Sequels always drop down a little bit from the first film, and [The ABCs Of Death 2] got pirated up the wazoo, so that sucked. We got pirated before VOD, even. Before our world premiere. That’s the worst case scenario. That’s the Expendables scenario. It really hurt us a lot, so we’ll have to crunch the numbers, talk to Magnolia Pictures, and see what’s going on.
The typical excuses simply don’t fly here. If you pirated The ABCs of Death 2 and liked it, you’re directly responsible for depriving yourself of another entry. If you didn’t like it, maybe it doesn’t matter to you personally, but think of all the movies you pirated and loved, and recognize that ‐ like with this situation ‐ there’s a very real possibility that you hurt the filmmakers financially. The very ones who made something that you liked or loved. Even if you paid for The ABCs of Death 2 after pirating it (I assume to show to the middle school class you were substitute teaching), you’re still part of a culture that has the power to destroy real opportunities for more movies to be made. Simply put, the pay-afterward-if-you-liked-it model isn’t sustainable for indie filmmakers. Especially those who never agreed to have their films tested under that model.
Ti West has answers to just about every pro-piracy response under the sun, but his now-famous missives to would-be digital shop lifters boil down to the concept of value and how we can directly create it or destroy it as consumers. He and other indie filmmakers continue to ask people not to watch their films without paying because they’d like to continue making films.
This situation with The ABCs of Death is also slightly similar to what happened to Filip Tegstedt back in 2012. The horror writer/director had his movie Marianne pirated before it could find distribution, and it shut down every conversation he was having about potential sales. No one wanted his movie, because it was already out there to be seen for free. Why would they buy rights for distribution when a random pirate had already claimed them for free? Presumably Timpson has already experienced that headache and doesn’t want to again.
Admittedly, we don’t hear a lot of these stories. You might think this is an anomaly because of that, but it’s not. Timpson (who I know personally and consider a friend despite his being taller than I am) is simply far more outspoken and direct about things that other producers might find detrimental to their business. Proclaiming that movies get killed because of piracy (and they do) is also proclaiming a vulnerability to something beyond the control of the filmmakers and financiers.
There’s still a chance that ABCs of Death 3 will get made, but if it does, Timpson and Magnolia will have to weigh their time, money and effort against everyone who might want to watch their movie without paying to support its production.