One Cut of the Dead distributor “still in the dark” on bootleg release
James R | On 04, Jan 2019
The distributor of One Cut of the Dead is “still in the dark” on how its Japanese horror-comedy was released illegally online in the UK last weekend.
Third Window Films, based in London, was gearing up to release the genre smash hit at the start of 2019, following an uproarious reception at FrightFest last year. It’s par for the course for the big-hitting small film: despite a budget of just $27,000, the film grossed $30 million in Japanese cinemas.
The UK distribution, though, hit an unexpected roadblock this week, when the whole movie appeared on Amazon Prime Video, as part of Amazon Prime. Adam Torel, the founder of Third Window, had nothing to do with it – it was a bootleg copy of the film uploaded illegally.
“I saw some posts on Twitter saying it was available on Amazon Prime in both the US and UK,” Torel explained to FilmSchoolRejects. “Considering the UK theatrical [release] is January 4th, and as it was very hard to get an Asian independent film into cinemas, you can imagine how much I started to panic and fear for my chances of getting Asian indies into cinemas from now on.”
Describing the situation as “pretty insane” to Gizmodo, Torel said he was “not sure how in this day and age films can be illegally uploaded to such major sites as Amazon”. The answer is most likely Amazon’s Prime Video Direct, a service that allows users to publish their own videos, in a manner similar to YouTube. That self-distribution mechanism, though, relies on the uploader to verify that they have the copyright for the video – you can read the full Digital License Agreement users must accept here when they sign up for the service.
The incident raises important questions about online platforms and how they operate – similar situations occur on YouTube, but this is the first time a pirated copy of a movie has been discovered on a subscription VOD service, particularly on a major one like Amazon Prime Video. Indeed, many people who found the film on Prime Video via social media late last Sunday streamed the film unwittingly.
For Third Window Films, that’s the major blow, not because of directly missed revenue from the subscription-based streaming, but because of the consequences that availability has had on its overall distribution plans.
“If this causes all American distribution companies to pull their offers off the table, not only will it ruin American audiences’ chances to see the film, but also [means] that, personally, I won’t get any payment,” Torel explained to FSR.
He bought the worldwide sales rights to the film over a year ago, gambling and winning on the low-budget project’s success.
“I would never have the chance to handle sales and distribution on a film that ended up being as big as it has now,” he told The Telegraph.
“Because it’s a student film, I did everything… I made English subtitles for the film, the digital cinema package (DCP), which includes the audio, image and data content associated with it.”
Torel confirmed to The Telegraph yesterday he’s still “in the dark” about what happened. VODzilla.co has reached out to Amazon’s press office for a comment, but has not received any response.
For fans keen to see the film legally, or to support the film’s official release, the good news is that the movie opens in UK cinemas today – and is available to buy and download legitimately (as well as on DVD and Blu-ray) on 28th January. You can pre-order the film on iTunes below – or see the trailer here.