From a domestic box office perspective, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and The Hunger Games were the winners in 2012, with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 and Skyfall coming in fourth and fifth respectively. The latter two spots on the list are more impressive when you consider that both films have only been out for a month or so. Regardless, these films raked in the dough, but only two of them made the Top 10 list of most pirated movies of 2012.
The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises are both on TorrentFreak.com's list of most pirated movies of 2012, with The Dark Knight Rises coming in at #3 with 8,230,000 downloads. The list was compiled by TorrentFreak from information they collected from several sources, including reports from all major BitTorrent trackers.
Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol ranks at #2. And Project X "wins" the top spot with 8,720,000 estimated downloads. As TorrentFreak points out, Warner Bros. teen-focused film about a wild party has the lowest worldwide gross of any film on the list. The site also notes that The Hunger Games and Skyfall didn't make the list. Also missing is The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. But with its November release, perhaps it's still a bit too new to have racked up enough illegal downloads to make the cut. The fact that Breaking Dawn Part 1 - which arrived in theaters last fall (2011) - made the list, coming in at #10, suggests that Twilight is a popular film to download illegally.
One of the issues that was noted in the list of 2012 most pirated TV shows was that availability may play a big factor in the high volume of illegally downloaded content, with international downloads accounting for a large portion of the reported numbers for TV downloads. Earlier this year, TorrentFreak.com ran an article about a study that suggests that international movie piracy losses are linked to the gap of time between when movies are released in the U.S. and when they make their foreign debuts. Going by that research, availability could be a major factor for movie piracy as well. It makes sense when you consider some of the films on TorrentFreak's list, including The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Sure, going to the movies can be a costly endeavor, but I still can't imagine why so many people would choose to see those hugely anticipated movies on their computer screens (with varying degrees of image quality) if they could watch them for the first time on the big screen - unless they couldn't see it on the big screen because it hadn't come to a theater near them yet.
From what TorrentFreak says (based on the mentioned study's findings), the issue of piracy may have a bigger impact on DVD/Blu-ray sales than it does on the box office. And if you consider that a lot - if not most - of the people who are downloading movies illegally might not have bought a ticket to see the movie in theaters anyway, that could be true. If those people were more likely to rent or purchase the movie later on, then downloading it illegally would likely have a noticeable effect on home video sales down the line.
And for the sake of pure speculation, at least some downloads might be from people who did see the movie in theaters but later downloaded it for repeat viewing. How many of those people would have gone back to the theater to see the same movie over and over? Some, probably, but others might opt to pirate the movie during the time between its theatrical release and its arrival on DVD/blu-ray, after which they might decide they don't really need to purchase the DVD, which would take its toll on home video sales if there are enough people doing this.
That brings it around to availability again and the question of whether more people would choose to pay for the movie if given the opportunity. In the case of international pirating, would releasing the film closer to the U.S. release date lead to fewer illegal downloads? And in the case of the desire for repeat viewings, would releasing the film on DVD/Blu-ray (or On Demand) sooner from the film's theatrical debut have a noticeable impact on the number of illegal downloads in the U.S.?