Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Horror Movie Conventions and Bootlegs

We've all been to horror movie conventions. How can we not love meeting the celebrities, examining horror merchandise as if we were in a museum, and ahh...the bootlegs. I know that I personally have spent many an hour looking through hard/impossible to find DVDs of shows from my formative years. The chance to own a show that I grew up memorizing as a kid is tantalizing.

At a recent show, I was talking to one of the vendors, who owned a very impressive collection of TV shows and movie bootlegs. This guy was like a "bootleg king" He was selling hundreds of box sets. Everything from the entire series of "The Twilight Zone" to all seven seasons of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" He was telling me that he sells his bootlegs full-time going from convention to convention. When he is not selling at a convention, he runs a website that sells his vast collection of bootlegs. It is a pretty legit site too, with a Pay Pal option and everything.

It surprised me that this man was so open about his business considering that 100 percent of his inventory was illegal. He must have SOME reservations about it considering that there is always chance that his business could be taken away from him at the drop of a hat and land him in jail.

Well, the point of my ranting is not to pass judgement on the bootleggers. (I have purchased Bootlegs of unreleased shows myself. I typically only buy them if there is no way to buy a legit copy because the poorer quality really irks me.) It just bring up a few questions that have always been on my mind.

1. Do studios not know of the large quantity of bootleggers that exist at these conventions? Obviously, someone must have tipped them off at one point. I remember being shocked back in 2003 at the Halloween 25th anniversary convention to see bootlegs of the Halloween 6 Producer's Cut sold when series Executive Producer Moustapha Akkad was present!

2. Why do these vendors get away with selling the bootlegs for 50 dollars and up? They know damn sure that they only spent pennies duplicating a disc. How do they justify selling poor quality copies of shows at the same price that you would be purchasing it for at a Best Buy?

And a challenge for those risky types...
3. if someone walks up to a bootlegger and grabs a bunch of box sets off the table, says "Good day" and walks away with out paying, what can the bootlegger really do about it? Now, he can't call the police. What would he say? "Officer, that man stole my illegal bootlegs?" He would be dumb to chase after the guy and make a scene. Would he risk having the cops show up and see all of his bootleg merchandise, jeopardizing his "company"?

Now, I repeat I am not making a judgement about those bootleggers. I know that those those vendors are the reason that some people attend a horror movie conventions. I am just surprised at how open and available the illegal acts are. There is the argument that some of the DVDs that are available are not available on DVD, so the studios aren't losing any money off of it. But that's like a burglar stealing jewelry from you and saying "It doesn't matter, they weren't gonna wear it anyway." On the other hand, maybe if the studios see that fans are willing to pay money for their copy of "Salute Your Shorts" on DVD, maybe they would decide to release a copy of it instead of forcing people to but it thought one of those vendors.

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