'Lego Batman' is late because you won't pirate it enough

It turns out there are worse things than losing money to pirates (or as the movie biz calls it, "Hell hath no fury like school children scorned").

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
3 min read
Warner Bros. Pictures

It's time to start crossing off the days in your calendar. Just 43 days until "The Lego Batman Movie" is released in Australia.

Sure, we might be starting early, but considering the film launched last week in the US, you can forgive us for watching the clock. 43 days. That's 30 days longer than the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But while the company behind the local release of the film admitted they made "one hell of a mistake" delaying the Australian launch of "The Lego Movie," they're taking the same path with its sequel. Why? Because piracy isn't that much of a problem, especially compared to losing the lucrative Kid Dollar.

That's the verdict from the company distributing the film. According to Roadshow Films CEO Graham Burke, while the company may lose millions in lost revenue to piracy, that's still not a reason to release "The Lego Batman Movie" in line with the US.

Speaking to CNET, Burke said the company had run the numbers and made the "difficult judgement call" not to put families offside by missing the school holidays.

"Yes, we will lose a lot to piracy, but the other side of the coin is the film is available when the audience that goes to these sort of films wants to see it," Burke said.

"When certain films go out in non-holiday periods, our audiences get very cross because the kids are not available to take them to them."

According to Burke, "99 percent" of the films distributed by Roadshow go day and date with the US, but there are "very rare" exceptions to this model.

But there's no doubt "Lego Batman" is a notable exception, especially considering the parallels drawn with the late release of "The Lego Movie," and Burke's public comments at a 2014 piracy forum about how much of a mistake that was.

We made one hell of a mistake with Lego... we held it for a holiday period. It was a disaster. It caused it to be pirated very widely. And as a consequence: No more. Our policy going forward is that all of our movies will release day and date with the United States.

Now, the company has changed its tune.

"That's been the case -- 'no more' -- other than the very rare exception."

Despite the self-confessed "disaster" with the first film -- a mistake that Burke confirmed cost the company in the order of AU$3.5-5 million due to piracy -- those numbers are still not enough of a reason to change tack.

"We'll still lose a lot of money to piracy at this point in time. But it was a trade off. There will be more money lost by having it released in a non-holiday period as opposed to releasing it when the people want to see it."

And what of the public response? Burke says Roadshow has received emails from some 14 people "expressing their disappointment."

"That's not a massive backlash," he said.

We won't find out until March 30 whether Roadshow's bet has paid off. And with "Lego Batman" bringing in less money than projected in its opening weekend, it could be an expensive gamble.

Either way, it's time to start counting backward from 43. And get ready to watch "Lego Batman" to the soothing sounds of hoards of kids loudly opening packets of M&Ms in theatres across the country.

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