It was mid-1999 and I was at a party. A friend of mine arrived late and when questioned he revealed he had seen The Matrix. For months we had been watching the trailers, seeing all of the teasers and visiting the official “whatisthematrix” website. The entire marketing campaign was geared towards amping you up without telling you anything. It’s an action movie with some kind of super-powered people and some weird film-noir-esque mystery. What the heck was the Matrix?!
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So when our friend said he’d been to see it and that he knew what the Matrix was, we had to know. His response: “No one can be told what the Matrix is…” This is a direct quote from the movie and the last line of the trailer that we had seen dozens of times.
Also released in 1999 were Fight Club and The Sixth Sense, both films with major plot twists. This was before the days of social media, before we could all run online and announce: “OMG! I can’t believe that [character] dies in the end!” Our friend could’ve told us what The Matrix was all about, but he decided that we needed to see it for ourselves and experience it fresh like he did.
This is what spoilers are about.
Movies often have one or two large plot points that could be ruined. TV shows (especially dramas with long storylines) are much more susceptible to spoilers, with each episode containing at least one large plot point, and the season itself dotted with many of them.
But it’s not just about seeing the plot for your favourite show or anticipated movie ruined for you on Twitter or Facebook; things can be spoiled in a number of ways.
Movie companies spend huge amount of money on advertising campaigns. This is something that hasn’t changed since movies were first made. These campaigns can sometimes rival the cost of making the film. All of this money is for one purpose: to get you excited and interested in seeing this movie.
In 2010, after a huge amount of critical acclaim The Hurt Locker won Best Picture along with five other Oscars. Three months after this glorious success and a full two years after it was first released at the Venice Film Festival, the film made it to New Zealand as part of the New Zealand Film Festival. Some months after that there were wider screenings at other cinemas. By the time this film was available to the majority of New Zealanders it had been “spoiled”.
Not spoiled in the sense that a major plot point had been revealed, but spoiled that by the time it finally reached us, the audience interest had dwindled. It should be noted that while not releasing The Hurt Locker in New Zealand, the film’s producers did launch a lawsuit against those who were trying to see it however they could.
Enter the Lego Movie.
The Lego Movie (currently screening in New Zealand) had a gigantic marketing campaign. If you went online at any point in the last three or four months there was no way to avoid the trailers, the tie-in promotions, the “blooper” reels and so on. It was released in the US on the 7th of February, a week later in the UK, then in Australia on the 3rd of April and, finally, in New Zealand on the 17th of April. Yes, there would’ve been some planning around school holidays for release dates - but that is a long wait for a film that is almost a sure hit.
I don’t see a wait of a few months to be an adequate or the sole reason for illegally downloading a movie or TV show (as delays for these can be just as long). However, if you make people wait for things they want, they’re going to look for alternative ways to access it.
About the author:
Hadyn Green is a geek. He loves shiny new tech and the chance to try to break it. Because it's the kind of thing people ask, here is the tech Hadyn currently uses. Phone: iPhone 5s Tablet: iPad Air. Music player: Spotify. Headphones: Sony MDR-G55 (for walking because I hate earbuds) and Beats Studio noise-cancelling (for sitting at my desk and tuning out the world). E-Reader: Kindle Touch. Gaming: PS4, PS3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. Internet Service Provider: Snap.