A new Australian film will be released in cinemas globally but not in Australia because of rampant piracy here.

Shane Abbess, the director of new sci-fi film Infini, starring ­Daniel MacPherson and Luke Hemsworth, said the decision to release the film digitally this week was disappointing but necessary.

“The whole world’s bought the film but we’re the only country that doesn’t get a theatrical run — because of piracy,”Abbess said.

The film’s distributor eOne told Abbess the recent piracy of Australian films including Wyrmwood, The Little Death and 100 Bloody Acres, showed there was a limited period in which people might watch the film before “literally anyone who wants to watch the film down here will pirate it.”

“If we release theatrically here we have to wait 90 days for VOD (video-on-demand) or physical (DVD) releases and that’s where piracy kills us here because the rest of the world would have the film but we’d be waiting months,” he said.

Wyrmwood director Kiah Roache-Turner has mixed feelings about the recent release of his Australian zombie film. For a few weeks it was one of the world’s most pirated films, showing it had a big audience; yet the film was popular almost solely in illegal downloads, denying the film the profit it needed to fulfil deferred payments to cast and crew.

“We knew we’d get pirated because of the genre of film it was, but unfortunately we fell into an area where Australians are the worst offenders and we got killed,” he said. “The reason we got killed is we were released on VOD and ­theatrical (in cinemas) at the same time. As soon as you go up on iTunes, it goes straight up onto the pirate sites; we saw it happen.”

Roache-Turner believes the outmoded release “windows” — in which films and TV stagger their release across different distribution platforms — no longer has relevance. “The average punter doesn’t understand the word window, they just feel they can’t watch something the Americans have,” he said.

“It’s the entitlement to free entertainment that really galls me,” he added. Wyrmwood was made on deferred payments, and cast and crew are yet to be paid.

“Our message was if you watch it, you should buy it,” he said. “If you buy it, we get to eat. By pirating this film, you were really taking food out of actors’ mouths.”

The recent success of The Water Diviner has given the sector pause for thought. The Seven Network bought out its subscription TV and digital rights in order to make it a key piece of its Anzac Day programming, only three months after its successful cinema release (and more than 12 months ahead of its usual FTA screening).

The film had 868,000 capital city viewers for its live broadcast and another 179,000 in time-shifted viewing, making it the biggest free-to-air movie for years with more than 1.04 million metro viewers. It hasn’t affected its DVD sales either.

“We loved the script for The Water Diviner and decided to invest at an early stage of the project,” said Angus Ross, Seven’s director of programming. “It felt like the right drama project for us to have ready for the 100th anniversary — and I think the amazing success the film has had to date vindicates that decision.”

Abbess is just happy people will get to see Infini in any form, despite its sound and vision being made for a big-screen experience. He liked the innovation in ­America of “cinema on demand” where successful digital releases are getting subsequent cinema releases. “VOD is obviously the future,” he said.

Via: The Australian

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