James Cameron: Innovation Trumps Any Piracy Threat

from the ain't-nothing-to-worry-about dept

Nearly a year ago, Techdirt reader Parker Mason had submitted a story to us, suggesting that the amazing visuals and 3D + IMAX aspect of Avatar was a perfect example of adding value to movies that would give people a real reason to go to the theater. I actually kept that story open in a tab for months, intending to write it up, and I never got around to it — and, to be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced that Avatar would really get a huge reception. Don’t I look foolish? Yes, Avatar obviously has been a blockbuster of blockbuster proportions — in part because of exactly those points. People want that greater experience and I was certainly among those who ponied up for the full 3D IMAX version (and not the fake IMAX version either — thanks to a friend who reminded me of that bit of deception).

It looks like James Cameron recognizes all this as well. Nastybutler77 was the first of a bunch of you to point to Cameron’s claim that innovation trumps “piracy,” which he made onstage at CTIA:

“In film we have definitely felt threatened by piracy,” he said. “We saw the music industry crash and burn in its efforts to stop it. But with G4 (I think he meant 4G wireless) and Moore’s Law, you can’t fight it….”

“The music industry saw it coming, they tried to stop it, and they got rolled over,” he said. “Then they started suing everybody. And now it is what it is.”

Instead, Cameron said he has tried to innovate to give movie goers a reason to go to theater. And in creating a rich, “reinvigorated cinema experience,” Cameron said he discovered that people are willing to pay money to experience the same content in different ways. Not only are they willing to pay $10 or more to see Avatar on the big screen in 3D, but they also will pay to own the DVD and to take it with them on their phone or portable device.

“People are discriminating about the experience,” he said. “They want to own it, have it on a iPhone when they want it, and they want the social experience of going to the cinema. These are really different experiences. And I think they can all co-exist in the same eco-system.”

Indeed. It’s great that he’s recognizing this. The other interesting point he made was that they’re going to release the Avatar DVD while the film is still showing in the theaters — in part because the show is still doing well in the theaters. Of course, many theaters have complained about how they don’t want shorter release windows (or, horror of horrors, the idea of releasing a movie in the theater and on DVD at the same time). However, it will be interesting to see whether the DVD release, while the movie is still in some theaters, leads to at least a little bump in box office sales for the movie, as people who watch it on DVD decide they want to see it on the big screen.

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Comments on “James Cameron: Innovation Trumps Any Piracy Threat”

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Mike C.says:

DVD sales at the theater

Everytime I see a story like this, my hopes get raised that “Hollywood” and the theater chains will come to their senses and start making DVDs available at the theater the night of the showing.

As part of a family of 4 and in today’s economy, it’s just not worth it to go to the movies on a regular basis. When we do, it’s going to be something that we like and if the movie is good, we’ll probably want to buy the DVD. Unfortunately, with the “release windows”, we end up forgetting about the movie and not buying it half the time.

I guess it’s good for my wallet, but not so good for Hollywood’s bottom line. Oh well, their loss.. ­čÖé

Spaceman Spiffsays:

Re: DVD sales at the theater

If the theaters are so concerned with release windows, then maybe a reasonable compromise would be for them to be able to sell the DVD in the theater a little before it became generally available… Naw. Other distributors would howl about that! Personally, I would consider purchasing the Avatar DVD even though I recently saw it in 3D at the theater. It was a great theater experience, but the story is great also – worth keeping in the video collection at home. Release windows don’t change that assessment at all, so as far as I’m concerned, this whole thing is just a bunch of money-grubbing asshats upset over nothing in particular.

Re: Re: DVD sales at the theater

Slightly offtopic

You know, I liked Avatar OK, and the FX and 3D were definitely groundbreaking, but I was irritated during the whole thing. I kept thinking I’ve seen this story before, and why do the Na’vi seem to be just alien versions of native Americans?

Then I found this: http://www.thelegendsleague.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/AvatarVSPocohantoas.jpg

So much for Cameron having an original thought…

An easy alternate ending for Avatar could have been the Na’vi discovering and quickly becoming addicted to “firewater”, using “firesticks” to fight back against the intruders, and eventually getting herded into reservations and opening casinos.


Wow, very good point at the end… I don’t know how many movies I didn’t find the time to go to the theater for, so I watched it at home on my 40″ flat screen with surround sound sitting in my recliner drinking a beverage I couldn’t drink at the theater and thought, wow I wish I could go see this in the theater. The right movies will ALWAYS be better in the theater. Now if I can just get the drink I want… Oh wait there is a new theater near here that allows that from their bar.


I'm among those supporting Avatar

I usually see one, maybe 2 movies per year in a theater. Avatar was an easy choice & was the elusive second movie of the year. I am an IMax customer, even though it is a considerable trip passing many lesser theaters along the way.
Mostly, though for 2D I’ll just watch it on my home theater, the easy trips to the kitchen & bathroom when it is paused is nice, and the cost is a factor, mostly it is just convenient and pleasant + cellphone free.


I'm among those supporting Avatar

I usually see one, maybe 2 movies per year in a theater. Avatar was an easy choice & was the elusive second movie of the year. I am an IMax customer, even though it is a considerable trip passing many lesser theaters along the way.
Mostly, though for 2D I’ll just watch it on my home theater, the easy trips to the kitchen & bathroom when it is paused is nice, and the cost is a factor, mostly it is just convenient and pleasant + cellphone free.


Re: I'm among those supporting Avatar

Agreed that while Avatar did bring people out to the theater, it was for entirely different reasons. I don’t make it out to the movies anymore, specifically for the reasons you listed. Whenever I DO watch something first-run, it’s almost always bootlegged.

I just can’t see theaters competing with home-brew stuff anymore unless they start giving audiences incentives to go. Avatar made use of 3D. Other movies are following.

I guess I see a future where everything that ISN’T 3D will be given the option to stream at home, kind of like how widescreen gave people reason to go to the theater when television first came about.




I am actually going to see Avatar tonight in 3D at the theater for the first time. I have waited this long specifically to miss the crowds and all of the garbage that goes along with that. I want to see the movie on the big screen with the big sound but I do not want to hear all of the other people talking during the movie, pay the high price for snacks and walk on the sticky floors.

Social experience is not a selling feature for me.

Anony Mousesays:

Piracy VS Industry

To be honest, I pay for GREAT content. I find alternatives to paying for ear and eye fodder.

No way Im paying upwards of $50 for my date and I to see some crap movie, with our feet stuck to the floor drinking a watered down beverage while 2 teen girls chirp in the seat behind me. When a truely emotionally moving movie, a huge visual masterpiece or unbelieveable sounding sound track comes out I will give the artists their due. But if you are going to create half-assed products then expect half-assed ROI.

Take note champions of industry … stop pumping out garbage, spinning it as the second coming. Produce a good product, deliver it in a meaning full manner and I will hand over my money.


If the theaters want me to start coming back, they have one major thing they have to start doing. Hire more ushers and start removing people from the theater when they are ruining it for other people. I can’t stand going to see a moving at the theater because there is always some annoying teenagers chatting constantly or texting with their cell glowing in the dark theater.

If the theaters would start removing people it would greatly improve the experience and people would start coming back to see good movies. The theaters will always have an advantage when it comes to screen size and usually have an advantage in sound, but they give up the advantage by letting other people ruin the experience.


DVD Release

“However, it will be interesting to see whether the DVD release, while the movie is still in some theaters, leads to at least a little bump in box office sales for the movie, as people who watch it on DVD decide they want to see it on the big screen.”

I don’t think the DVD release will hurt box office sales because the DVD and Blu-Ray release on April 22nd is not going to be in 3D at all and won’t have a single extra on it. If you want the extras, you need to wait until the Christmas shopping season begins in November when the fully packed version will be released. And even that won’t be the 3D version, according to Fox. So perhaps he’s just creating yet another window? Here’s the link to what James Cameron said to The Wall Street Journal and it mentions that Fox has confirmed the Blu-Ray November release will NOT be 3D either.



Re: DVD Release

I read that too. It makes me really sad because some salesman talked me into the new Samsung UN55C7000 3D LED on the weekend. Well… he didn’t have to try too hard, $300 more for the 3D TV compared to the 2D version AND it came with a 3D Bluray player and 2 sets of glasses.

Now if only there were some movies (sorry Monsters vs. Aliens, you just don’t cut it).

But the Theater Experience Sucks

I go to the movies a lot. For years, my daughter and I have set aside Sunday as Movie Day. We alternate who gets to pick the movie and we go. While we don’t hit every single Sunday, I’d say we easily hit 40-45 movies per year. And at this point, if I could get new releases on DVD as soon as they are available in the theater, I’d never go to a theater again.

I don’t mind the price of admission. But add in another $20.00 for a couple of soda and some cold popcorn, people talking in the theater, texting, using cell phones, the absolute rudeness of the people who work in the theater, etc and it’s getting less and less fun every time I go.

So why continue? Because we want to see the movies when they come out. Maybe the industry is doing this right from their point of view. Maybe they know that if people can just buy the DVD on release day, their theater revenue would dry up overnight because of the sucky experience.

Zac Morrissays:

Heard reporting this morning that Dragon push out Avatar from it's last 3D cenema

I heard reported this morning that “How to Train your Dragon”, pushed out Avatar from it’s last remaining 3D theatres?

I’m thinking they may have confused pushing it out of the top ten with pushing it out of actual 3D theatres? I’d heard that was likely with Clash of the Titans, but wasn’t sure if it would be until then?


Too bad for him that the 'innovation' of 3d is in our livingrooms already this year.

This years lineup of new TV’s and videobeamers all support 3D, allowing us to have a hi-def 3D movie experience at home.
With cheaper cola, toilet-breaks whenever you want and no annoying people forgetting to turn their phone off.

So what will his new innovation be next year ? and the year after that ?

bunyan 10says:

----STOP being such set-up saps!

outsourcing cheap labor, and unflinchingly catering
to the franchise-slum, circle-jerk denial needs
of history’s –MOST– awesomely genocidal regime
bar none —ACROSS the Pacific -Cameron, like the rest
of Hollywood, is taking moral cover behind decades stale,
selective, and long discredited Boomer era PC ‘consciousness’.

I guess next he’ll have to turn out his PC revisionist
WWII retread —while the 60th Anniversary of the staggeringly relevant, indeed, STILL unfolding KOREAN WAR
is, once again, ‘mysteriously overlooked’…

—-STOP being such set-up saps!

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