American Sniper would win best picture and Birdman’s Alejandro Inarritu best director if the Oscars were determined by online piracy rates, a study says.
It suggests being nominated in one of the four major categories has a particularly profound effect on illegal downloads of indie and art house films.
The authors suggest that producers of such movies become more flexible about how and when their titles are released. But one industry expert said that was easier said than done.
Many of the nominated films are publicising their nominations.
The report was carried out by Irdeto, a Netherlands-based company that sells piracy controls to the pay-TV sector.
It used “crawler” software to monitor downloads via Bittorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing services around the world and says its figures represent the minimum number of illegal downloads.
As part of the study, the company compared the amount of piracy in the week before nominations with the week after.
Selma, Wild, American Sniper, Still Alice and Birdman saw some of the biggest swings in popularity, and each accounted for more than 100,000 downloads.
By contrast, two other films that had been tipped for the awards but failed to secure nominations in the major categories did not experience similar demand: Mr Turner has been downloaded 9,086 times since 15 January, and Inherent Vice has been downloaded 53,008 times, according to the study.
Irdeto suggests the Oscar nominations and resulting media coverage drove many users to search for the films on illegal sites, and it noted the DVDs used to let Academy Awards voters watch and judge the movies sometimes became the source of the pirated files.
The company acknowledged that not every download represented a lost sale.
‘Caught in a bind’
However, an adviser to the Independent Film and Television Alliance said its members had less latitude to act than the major studios, which control their own films’ releases.
Bertrand Moullier said smaller movies often relied on funding from local distributors who bought the release rights before filming started.
These distributors might be unwilling to suddenly change their plans, he said, because of concerns the films would then clash with others coming out locally at the same time.