The world premiere of Paramount Pictures The Tunnel will happen in a few months, but not in a theater—it's going to be released on BitTorrent, for peer-to-peer distribution. Yup, that's the same tech video pirates utilize.
The movie is set in a network of abandoned rail tunnels that really exist underneath Sydney, Australia, and from the teaser trailer the film proceeds as a real-life feeling horror/thriller with a nod to the Blair Witch Project. Much like that film, this movie seems a little unconventional, and this fits with the MO of the film's producers, Distracted Media—the team tried to raise money for the project by selling individual frames of it. Simultaneously with its release on BitTorrent, there will be a DVD release through Paramount Pictures, and this is where the clever monetizing bit of the plan occurs: The DVD includes hours of extra footage behind the scenes and an alternative ending, intended to entice fans to buy a physical copy.
The thing is, it probably won't be long before that DVD edition is released as a pirated torrent too, which could impact on the plan to sell many DVDs. Is Paramount hoping that many horror movie fans have scruples and will pay for the real deal? Or is it actually a carefully thought-out directed marketing plan that has a feel similar to Radiohead's experimental "pay what you want" album sale, intended to attract only true fans of the movie?
Distracted Media's Enxo Tedeschi spoke about the plan, and highlighted how "forward thinking" Paramount has been—an interesting position given the studio, like most Hollywood studios, is sternly anti-piracy and it's COO has even this week been speaking to a Congressional committee to try to tighten up anti-piracy laws. Tedeschi remarked to TorrentFreak that the film is not all about "supporting or condoning piracy, but instead trying to incorporate a legitimate use of peer-to-peer in our distribution strategy internationally." This last bit does make good sense: Some sources of piracy have been identified in staggered international release in theaters (or on DVDs) of big movie titles, and a BitTorrent release will be, by its very nature, a global affair.
Just one question remains: This movie is technically a straight-to-DVD affair, since it's not going to theaters...so is the bit torrent release a clever bit of backwards PR, using the same tools that pirates use to drum up interest in the flick itself?
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