Pirating the Oscar 2005 Screeners

Last year, I published some not-too-surprising research that revealed all but one Oscar-nominated film leaked onto the Internet. Let’s see if the industry’s evolving efforts to plug the leaks were any more effective this year.

Below is a list of every Oscar-nominated film, excluding foreign language and documentary categories, with the date of US theatrical release and the first date the industry screener was leaked to the Internet. The results? Out of 30 movies, all but five screener copies were leaked online by pirate groups.

How did those five movies manage to stay offline? For “House of Flying Daggers,” the retail DVD was leaked two months before the US theatrical release, bypassing the need for a screener release. For the others, I suspect that either a screener was never released for the film or that the screener was released after the official retail DVD. (In the case of “Phantom of the Opera,” maybe there was no demand.)

A few notes: Three screeners were originally leaked in VHS format, so I listed those dates first. (Note that all three were later leaked in DVD format, also.) Not surprisingly, almost every screener was leaked during the winter months leading up to award nominations. Also of interest, it looks like the screeners for “Hotel Rwanda” and “The Sea Inside” leaked onto the Internet before the film was even released in the United States.

Movie Title USA Release Screener Leaked
A Very Long Engagement December 17, 2004 January 1, 2005
Before Sunset July 2, 2004 November 9, 2004
Being Julia October 15, 2004 January 5, 2005
Closer December 3, 2004 January 13, 2005
Collateral August 6, 2004 October 3, 2004 (VHS)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind March 19, 2004 June 24, 2004
Finding Neverland November 24, 2004 December 24, 2004
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban June 4, 2004 August 30, 2004 (VHS)
Hotel Rwanda December 22, 2004 December 6, 2004
House of Flying Daggers December 3, 2004  
I, Robot July 16, 2004 August 30, 2004 (VHS)
Kinsey November 12, 2004 December 24, 2004
Lemony Snicket December 17, 2004  
Maria Full of Grace July 16, 2004  
Million Dollar Baby December 15, 2004 January 7, 2005
Ray October 29, 2004 December 12, 2004
Shark Tale October 1, 2004 December 2, 2004
Shrek 2 May 19, 2004  
Sideways October 22, 2004 November 22, 2004
Spider-Man 2 June 30, 2004 September 2, 2004
The Aviator December 25, 2004 January 8, 2005
The Incredibles November 5, 2004 December 10, 2004
The Motorcycle Diaries September 24, 2004 December 1, 2004
The Passion of the Christ February 25, 2004 May 31, 2004
The Phantom of the Opera December 22, 2004  
The Polar Express November 10, 2004 January 28, 2005
The Sea Inside December 17, 2004 November 11, 2004
The Village July 30, 2004 October 30, 2004
Troy May 14, 2004 August 6, 2004
Vera Drake October 22, 2004 January 20, 2005


    A tiny quibble–more of a note, really. “Million Dollar Baby” didn’t enjoy a broad US theatrical release until 2005 (IMDB reports Jan. 28). I’m sure they released on a few screens in LA and New York to qualify for the Oscars.

    A Shrek 2 DVD screener was released just after movie was out and before the DVD release.

    Not sure of the date. Maybe someone else can comment

    If I remember correctly, I D/L a DVD screener for Shrek 2 about a month after the theatre release.

    I would be interested in seeing the #days between release and leak, along with an average excluding the infinite values for ones without a leak. 🙂

    Compare that to last year’s average days to leak, and I think that would be pretty interesting.

    You could take it even further and integrate the profit curve of each movie over the range between release and leak, and compare the additional profit earned this year to see if it was significant compared to last year’s. Then compare it to the dollars spent on prevention techniques and litigation to see if you actually recovered some “lost” piracy profits.

    At least, that’s what I would do if I were an industry executive. 🙂

    Maria Full of Grace it’s available on P2P networks, but i don’t know exactly what source they used.

    The “House of Flying Daggers” and “Maria Full of Grace” DVD-rips you’re referring to were taken from the retail DVD release. I was only researching the release of industry-only DVD screeners.

    I haven’t been able to find any reference to a DVD screener release for Lemony Snicket or Shrek 2. Does anyone know the releasing group?

    The Shrek2 DVD rip wasn’t from an oscar screener, but likely an internal dreamworks one. I downloaded it the first week of July, about 6 weeks after release back in , and it was in beautiful near-DVD divx quality. My file is called b-shrek2ws.avi, and I seem to recall the release group was dubbed WS, so whatever that stands for is them. I bet you could find the nfo file

    I made a little spreadsheet from the numbers above, and the average days to pirate is 55.48. What’s missing is the release date for the screener itself, because it takes a lot less than 55 days for most movies to be ripped and uploaded. If anything I think the amount of time passing represents the screen dvd lag than pirate lag.

    Owen: I agree. The total number of days between theatrical release and screener leak isn’t meaningful, because most screeners are released around the same time for Oscar/Golden Globe consideration.

    I’d love to find out the dates that each studio distributed their screeners… I’d guess that most screeners are leaked online within a week of their distribution.

    As far as the Shrek 2 DVD is concerned, I bought it on the street in Beijing about 2 weeks before it was released into theaters. It had the exact same interface as the real dvd when it was released in the US and even included most of the special features. Must have been an internal leak.

    The Shrek release was not a screener or an internal release it seems to have been a rental copy of the movie. Quite amazing that it was released so soon after the theatrical release date (it was almost same time here in Ireland).

    The WS is not the release group but means Wide Screen, which was added to the directory name of the release you have (Shrek.2.WS.DVDRip.XviD-BRUTUS) because a Full Screen (i.e. 4:3) version had been leaked to the Internet several days earlier.

    The Shrek 2 leak (b-shrek2ws) was released by BRUTUS, as indicated by the “b-“. The “ws” indicates widescreen. It was leaked about a week after the theatrical release.

    David: The versions you’re referring to were ripped from a DVD of the 1989 version of “Phantom of the Opera.” Regardless, I’m only looking at DVD screeners; not rips of commercially-available DVDs.

    > Where can you find these movie files for download?

    The Internets. The other ones George W. referred to in the debates.

    Actually, the fall of Suprnova has just expanded the problem: instead of 3 or 4, there are hundreds of tracker sites, some public, some private. Google is your friend.

    Hollywood should extend BT slightly and charge $10 for a 30 day-long copy and $30 for a DRM-free copy (watermarked).

    The only reference to a Phantom of the Opera release I can find on Nforce.nl is a telesync (ie camcorder with cinema sound) released on 13th January.

    I doubt that “demand” factors into it, as release groups would release a film of a dead donkey if they thought they were the first to get there – the 0-day race and all that – which makes it a puzzle as to why no screener copy has been made of Phantom.

    There are usually only two reasons why a screener doesn’t get leaked: either the retail DVD kills demand for any screener copies, or the movie studio never released a screener at all. For “Phantom,” I’m guessing the latter.

    my bad on the phantom release, should’ve researched before posting.

    I’d be surprised though if a screener for Phantom wasn’t made given all the publicity as a potential award winner by journos BEFORE all the top movie of 2004 lists began trickling out. Once you get omitted a certain number of times you get left in the dust it seems- not that I’m advocating seeing Phantom to begin with.

    Another tiny quibble; groups that release these screeners are not ‘pirates’. Pirates sell other peoples works, these groups compress and release moviez for the thrill of it. You know the car chase in ‘The Italian Job’? Its just like that thrill. Have you not seen that movie? Go leech it!

    These are the dates the oscar screeners for your list above were received by ampas members in Tinseltown…

    A Very Long Engagement 12/15

    Before Sunset 11/22

    Being Julia 11/26

    Closer 12/16

    Collateral 11/23

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 10/28

    Finding Neverland 12/8

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 11/24

    Hotel Rwanda 12/23

    House of Flying Daggers 12/13

    I, Robot 12/15

    Kinsey 11/16

    Lemony Snicket 1/3

    Maria Full of Grace 11/20

    Million Dollar Baby 12/15

    Ray October 12/15

    Shark Tale 12/14

    Shrek 2 11/23

    Sideways 11/16

    Spider-Man 2 12/1

    The Aviator 12/24

    The Incredibles 12/14

    The Motorcycle Diaries 11/9

    The Passion of the Christ 11/16

    The Phantom of the Opera 12/15

    The Polar Express 2/8

    The Sea Inside 12/17

    The Village 12/16

    Troy May 11/24

    Vera Drake 12/17

    Re: Mifrak Johnson

    Really? And here I thought pirates boarded ships, stole treasure, and said ‘Arrr!’ a lot. I guess I’m just confused.

    I live in the United Arab Emirates, and up until recently, we had to wait for months for films released in the rest of world to come to the big screens here. For the last two years, we’ve had films come out within two weeks of their release in the US or the UK.

    The reason? Knockoff Chinese DVDs of popular movies, most of which are hastily shot in cinemas, make their way into the market (for sale for US$3) before the films make it to the cinemas, which was dramatically affecting ticket sales.

    So maybe in one corner of the world, copyright piracy has helped us get better films sooner.

    Lemony Snicket and Shrek 2 screeners were definitely release, each about a month after release.

    Shrek 2 was full DVD with extras, animated menus and bonus materials

    ok, i think everyone is missing the point that, he’s referring to the screeners and not the actual rips of retail dvds. but yes yousef you are correct, phantom of the opera dvd screener rip was released on 02/14 and there were no shrek and lemony screeners released, but there was a Telecine released for shrek 2 thus bypassing the need for a screener, seeing as it went directly to the dvdrip.

    Marcus, just because it might claim it’s a screener in your dirname doesn’t mean it is. There have only been theater rips of lemony nothing of any higher quality

    I am sure there is a Shrek2 DVDRip release, because i downloaded it, but there is no Lemony Snicket DVD Screener or Rip released yet.

    There are a few more screeners i have that are not listed thought i would share.

    1.Darkness – 3 Months or Longer I Have Had This 1

    2.Imagainary Heroes – 3 Weeks

    3.Criminal – 3 Weeks

    4.White Noise – 1 Week

    5.Constantine – 1 Week

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