If the success of a movie can be judged by the number of people who want to see it without paying for it, then Deadpool was the most successful film released in 2016.Torrent Freak has released its annual list of movies that were the most “shared” (i.e., stolen) from public torrent sites, and the hyper-violent Ryan Reynolds vehicle was last year’s winner. Torrent Freak estimates that movie was illegally downloaded “millions” of times, starting right after the film’s release last February. “Even today,” the site observes, “thousands of people are still actively sharing it.”
Keeping with internet tradition, the 2016 list is led by superhero, sci-fi, and fantasy films, including Batman V Superman, The Force Awakens, X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War, and Suicide Squad. Nerd stuff, basically. BitTorrent users weren’t as interested in Manchester By The Sea or Moonlight.
So did all of those illegal downloads siphon away box office dollars? Not necessarily. The films on this list were, by and large, successful in theaters as well. “There’s a high correlation between piracy and box-office sales,” Torrent Freak observes. “Top grossing movies tend to do well on torrent sites too.” Case in point: Pixar’s Finding Dory, which was the second-highest grossing film of last year and the ninth most pirated. But there are anomalies, too. Zootopia was a big hit in theaters last year, but it wasn’t much of a draw for internet thieves. On the other hand, Independence Day: Resurgence failed to light up the domestic box office last June, but it was illegally downloaded more than Finding Dory or Suicide Squad. Apparently, BitTorrent saved millions of nerds the embarrassment of having to go to an actual movie theater and audibly say the words, “One for Independence Day: Resurgence, please.”