Pirating the 2011 Oscars

The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday, which means it’s time again to see who’s winning in the eternal fight between the movie studios, the Motion Picture Academy, and the loosely-organized group of spunky kids known as The Scene.

Yesterday morning, along with an anonymous group of spectators, I updated the ever-growing spreadsheet now spanning the last nine years of Oscar-nominated film. I added this year’s 29 nominees to the list, a collection of 274 films in total. (You can read about more sources and methodology at the end of the entry.)

Don’t miss the Statistics sheet, which covers all the aggregate year-by-year stats. Download or view it below, or read on for my findings. As always, if you have any additions or corrections, let me know.

View full-size on Google Spreadsheets.

Download: Excel (with formulas) or CSV


Note: These numbers will change as we get closer to the ceremony, and I’ll do my best to keep them updated until Oscar day.

Continuing the trend from the last couple years, fewer screeners are leaking online by nomination day than ever. Last year at this time, only 41% of screeners leaked online; this year, that number drops again slightly to 38%.

But if you include retail DVD releases along with screeners, 66% of this year’s nominated films have already leaked online in high quality. This makes sense; if a retail DVD release is already available, there’s no point in leaking the screener. But I think it’s safe to say that industry efforts to watermark screeners and prosecute leaks by members have almost certainly contributed to the decline.

The gap between theatrical and DVD release dates seems to have stabilized, hovering around 105 days for the last few years. This year, the gap between US release to first leak seems to have dipped slightly, from a median 23 days last year to 17 days.

The chart below shows how camcorder and telesync leaks for Oscar-nominated films continue to decline in popularity, while nearly every nominated film is eventually leaked on DVD. (The only exception seems to be 2008’s Il Divo, which never appeared to get a US retail release.)

One prediction: The end of the DVD screener is near. This year, Fox Searchlight distributed three screeners with iTunes — 127 Hours, Black Swan, and Conviction — to all 93,000 voting members of the Screen Actors’ Guild, marking the first time a major studio’s used Apple’s service for screener distribution.

Voters get the additional convenience of being able to watch films on their computers, Apple TVs, iPads and iPhones, while studios save the time and expense of distributing physical media. If this experiment’s successful, it seems likely other studios will follow.


Some random notes:

  • This year, three films were leaked online within a day of their theatrical release — Iron Man 2, Alice in Wonderland, and Harry Potter.
  • The Rabbit Hole screener was leaked online eight days before its theatrical release, while Winter’s Bone was the slowest to leak online (so far) at 125 days after its theatrical release.
  • Oscar-nominated films tend to get released late in the year, but how late? More nominated films have been released on December 25 than any other day, but the median date is October 20.
  • For the first year, the first high-quality leak of a film — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — was a PPV rip, most likely from a hotel’s new movie releases on pay-per-view.
  • Retail Blu-Ray rips are now frequently being leaked online now before retail DVDs, so I’ve modified the “Retail DVD” column to include them.


As usual, I included the feature films in every category except documentary and foreign films (even makeup and costume design). I used Yahoo! Movies for US release dates, always using the first available date, even if it was a limited release. Cam, telesync, R5, and screener leak dates were taken from VCD Quality, with occasional backup from ORLYDB. I always used the first leak date, with the exception of unviewable or incomplete nuked releases.

Finally, the official screener dates came from Academy member Ken Rudolph, who lists the date he receives every screener on his personal homepage. Thanks again, Ken!

For previous years, see 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008 (part 1 and part 2), 2009, and 2010.


    Where’s “Incendies” since you’ve put Biutiful on the list, why not putting all the foreign films ?

    Javier Bardem was nominated for a Best Actor award for Biutiful, which is why that film was included. I always skip the foreign film and documentary categories because they’re very rarely leaked online, skewing the stats. You can read more in the Methodology section at the end of my post.

    the Harry Potter PPV rip as you claim it is in fact a Telesync not a PPV rip. If you read the nfo file that came along with the release they mention it came originally from a Turkish TS with the audio taken from a different pirate release.

    Interesting that there’s only one negative number in the US release to leak date column this year.

    Your research is has become my favourite part of award season!

    This is some awesome analysis. Personally, I’ve wondered whether certain movies are leaked on purpose to draw Oscar buzz. An example is The Hurt Locker it seemed to flood the net last year, before wide release, but they do claim it was stolen.

    THE FIGHTER seems to have been distributed via the web too: The.Fighter.2010.WEBSCR.720p.AC3.XViD-T0XiC-iNK

    “For the first year, the first high-quality leak of a film — Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — was a PPV rip, most likely from a hotel’s new movie releases on pay-per-view.”

    Don’t trust everything the pirates label to be fact. It’s not a PPV or a hotel source.

    As always, Andy, thanks for the extensive research. I will, however, take a quick moment to half-gloat that I sort of called the whole “digital download screener via iTunes” two years ago on your 2009 edition of this column. Cheers 🙂

    I think hollywood can beat piracy but not in the way they are doing now. Apple has shown the way it should be done with the way they transformed mp3s (which used to be synonymous with piracy) to a great money maker.

    The reason why pirates download movies off the web is partly to do with the fact that they’re cheap and don’t want to pay, but most importantly convenience.

    It used to be so much more convenient to download music off torrents, than go out and buy CDs and rip them into your mp3 player. The iPhone and iPod changed all that, you could now download songs legally from itunes store in a matter of seconds, with all the details populated and custom artwork downloaded as well.

    Netflix and Hulu are already paving the way for the same phenomenon in the movie industry, and as more people invest in the technology you will find that viewers can simply download movies (legally) in seconds. That they will be relucant to venture into potentially unsafe websites to download movies from torrents.

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