Illegal downloading a favourite NZ pastime

21:25, May 15 2011

Kiwis are movie-loving pirates, an online survey has found.

The first New Zealand cinema census of 4000 people found 62 per cent went to the cinema once a month, with 27 per cent seeing as many as three films a month.

It also found 51 per cent regularly downloaded movies, but 87 per cent of those did not pay for them.

Only 40 per cent of respondents were opposed to illegal downloads. The survey was conducted by movie website flicks.co.nz, and 48 Hours and Incredibly Strange film festivals creator Ant Timpson.

Flicks managing director Paul Scantlebury said he was surprised by the number of people illegally downloading films.

He said people turned to the internet because movies were shown in New Zealand much later than the rest of the world.

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"Everyone is online and knows a movie is out and is good, but often it will be out on DVD in the US before it is out in the cinema here," he said. "iTunes is not really much better. The legal way of doing this is not very good.

"If there was a viable, legal and local option, people would use it. It is sad because people are forming habits and learning new ways to access movies."

Timpson said New Zealand movie distribution had not changed for nearly a century.

"The structure hasn't changed since the days of Charlie Chaplin," Timpson said. "People would pay to download films if they were available. People will get the films no matter what, whether they pay for it or not.

"It took the music industry a long time to set up a new system, but once they did, it went gangbusters."

However, Timpson and Scantlebury felt downloading would not have an effect on cinema attendance.

"Cinemas offer something so different and unique that I don't think big-screen movies will take much of a hit," said Scantlebury.

However, Motion Picture Distributors' Association chairman Robert Crockett said illegal downloads could damage an industry that sustained 22,000 New Zealand jobs. "This highlights the issue that there is illegal downloading and we need to do something about it as a creative industry," he said.

"I think most people want to do the right thing if they know that what they are doing is illegal and has a cost locally.

"I'm sure they will choose to do the right thing if they are given a viable and legal option to do so."

The survey also found that cinemagoers prize a comfortable seat over screen size and believe people who talk during films are the biggest irritation.

The Press