The weblog TorrentFreak has released a list of the 10 most pirated movies of 2011 and it reveals a lot about the mentality of those who watch films for nothing.
Namely, their tastes skew overwhelmingly to the lowest common denominator.
How else to explain the fact that Fast Five was the most popular title, downloaded an estimated 9.2 million times? Sure, the fifth edition of the Fast and Furious franchise was popular at the box-office, raking in $US626 million worldwide, but the performances were elementary, the villains cartoonish and many scenes defied logic and the laws of gravity.
The second most popular title with 8.8 million downloads was The Hangover Part 2, which earned $581 million globally and was a virtual carbon copy of the original, but even crasser and less amusing.
Third was Thor (8.3 million downloads) which I'm sure delighted millions of adolescent males but had zero appeal to almost everyone else.
The disconnect between ticket sales and illegal file-sharing is illustrated by Source Code, which registered 7.9 million downloads, disproportionately much stronger than its slender $123 million gross.
The dreary, juvenile action thriller I Am Number Four was a hit among the watch-it-for-nothing demographic (7.6 million downloads) but a bust at the box-office.
Same goes for Zack Snyder's nonsensical, female vengeance tale Sucker Punch, with 7.2 million versus $89 million in B.O.
Evidently The King's Speech was too high brow, or historical, or real, for the file-sharers, judging by its ranking at No. 9 with 6.2 million.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was tenth with 6 million, perhaps because the vast majority of Hogwarts fans wanted to see the series' climax in 3D and got their money's worth.
I'm not sure what we can glean from the fact that Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides didn't make the top 10.
TorrentFreak noted the average number of downloads was lower than in 2010 when Avatar was No 1, downloaded more than 16 million times. That downturn could be explained by the growing prevalence of legal ways to watch movies online such as Netflix streaming, or by alternatives to BitTorrent such as sites that allow users to illegally stream video without downloading files, according to the Los Angeles Times.
However the Hollywood studios that have been battling movie piracy for years may not take much comfort from that apparent trend.
TorrentFreak observed, “Since the total number of active BitTorrent users isn't shrinking, the downloads may simply be spread out over more titles in 2011.”