“The Breakfast Club” & The Broader Impact of Piracy on Restored Films

March 17, 2015

With the newly re-mastered The Breakfast Club premiere on March 16th at SXSW, what better time to reflect on the broader impact of piracy. The effect piracy has on the revenue generated by new releases is often discussed, but this re-release reminds us to consider the implications for the entire ecosystem, including our very rich film treasury. Anyone who has marveled at a carefully restored classic movie, presented in high definition with details in picture quality and immersive surround sound may also want to consider the effect of piracy.

Efforts to restore films are usually approved by a studio based on historical or cultural value and/or the presence of a significant fan base. The funds for restoration typically originate from a pool of money generated by successful releases. This is important because the revenues derived from restored titles often do not recover the total costs of the restoration plus their marketing and distribution. Pirating restored movies, like new releases, is detrimental to our present and future. As piracy increases, the amount of money available for all other projects decreases. The end result is fewer restorations.

Quality restoration is a skill that requires many talented people and often sophisticated systems and infrastructure. Whether you are a skilled artist using the latest technology, or an employee of the equipment or software manufacturer, less money for restoration means less work.

The bottom line is that a content owner’s ability to fund restorations, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and consume many months of labor, keeps countless people employed and millions of fans enjoying movies. Most content owners and content creators want to leverage current advances in resolution and immersive sound to tell their story in a more vibrant way, often in a manner impossible to experience using the technology available at the time of original production. As piracy steals from the entire ecosystem, it also steals from the millions of people that want to see their favorites masterfully restored to take advantage of all that new technology has to offer.

If you have ever wondered about the restoration process and want to learn more about the effort and people that make it happen, Universal Studios has two documentaries worth your time. Watch them here and here.