In January, Brett Danaher, a member of the department of economics at Wellesley College, and Joel Waldfogel, professor at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, published the results of a study of the effect of online film piracy on international box office sales.
As reported on TorrentFreak, their study found that delays in theatrical release dates for international markets appeared to lower total box-office returns in those markets by at least 7%. In their words, "delayed legal availability of the content abroad may drive the losses to piracy".
The research also looked at the impact of BitTorrent file sharing on the U.S. box office, where films are typically released first. The team concluded that "we do not see evidence of elevated sales displacement in US box office revenue following the adoption of BitTorrent". That is, they found that file sharing does not depress movie revenues in the U.S.
I've written on occasion about the perspective that meeting consumer demand for content is one of the best ways to fight piracy. In our own research on O'Reilly titles, a substantial number of downloads took place in markets in which the publisher did not have a market presence.
Movie studios already know this, and many have moved to "day-and-date" (simultaneous worldwide) release of films with international appeal. Given this research, then, we can wonder out loud why the MPAA and others are fighting so hard to stop an activity they already know how to circumvent.