You wouldn't know it judging by the early box office numbers for Michael Moore's "Sicko" - the movie that was available for free all over the Web a full two weeks before being released. The early expectation was that the film's online presence would take a big dent out of ticket sales, but that hasn't happened. Might it be that pirated movies available for file-sharing will actually drum up interest in the days before the release date? "File sharing has been going on for years now and yet the movie industry continues to see record profits and revenues. Clearly file sharing is not killing the movie industry, far from it," Fred von Lohmann, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation told Cnet News. Yeah, but keep in mind that the audiences seeing "Sicko" at movie theaters have skewed older and thus are less likely to participate in file-sharing. Meantime, there's no word on who the pirates might have been; distributor Weinstein Co. made lots of noise about hunting down the perpetrators, but it's probably a lost cause.
In a May 2005 report on movie marketing by The London School of Economics and Political Science, researcher David Lane found that the secret to stimulating ticket sales "is less about the film itself than about the success of pre-publicity and word-of-mouth recommendations." Lane found that marketing techniques had changed in Hollywood in the past two decades and that what mattered most was "to get people talking about the film, creating prerelease interest and then to sell tickets--fast." When Moore's documentary surfaced on the Web, it generated a host of news stories that served as free advertising. But there's no way to determine how many people learned about the movie from someone who downloaded a pirated copy.