AUSTRALIAN moviegoers were left with a bitter, yet familiar, taste in their mouth in December when the distributor of the The Lego Batman movie announced it would have a delayed release date, premiering Down Under more than six weeks after it hits US cinemas.
The decision was not only rankling for fans but seemed like it went against all common sense.

The same thing happened with the hugely popular original Lego Movie which was released in Australia 54 days after the US — with disastrous results.

Having to wait long periods for movies and TV shows to become available in Australia is an often cited reason for high rates of illegal piracy.Back in 2014 when the Lego movie was trending to become the most illegally downloaded film of the year, Graham Burke the chief executive of Village Roadshow — who own the distribution rights — said the high level of piracy cost the company somewhere between $3.5 million and $5 million in sales.

At the time he said that Village Roadshow would make an effort to distribute all major films at the same time as the US release, in an attempt to combat rampant online piracy. So naturally, fans were left a little flummoxed when it was announced that they would have to wait an extra 48 days for the Lego sequel, which was released in the US last week.

According to the Village Roadshow CEO, “99 per cent” of the films distributed by the company line up with the US release date. But in this instance, they believe the loss of sales due to piracy will not outweigh the boon of the school holidays when Aussie families fork out at the box office.

Speaking to CNet, Mr Burke said it was a “difficult judgment call” to release the movie in Australia more than six weeks after the US in order to line up with the school holidays.

“Yes, we will lose a lot to piracy, but the other side of the coin is the film is available when the audience that goes to these sort of films wants to see it,” he said. “When certain films go out in non-holiday periods, our audiences get very cross because the kids are not available to take them.”

Despite being developed by local animation studio Animal Logic in Sydney’s Fox Studios, The Lego Batman movie will released in 42 other countries before Australian viewers will get their chance.The decision by the rights holders provides a stark contrast to comments made by Mr Burke in front of an audience at the Online Copyright Infringement Forum in 2014.

“We made one hell of a mistake (with the Lego Movie),” he said. “We held it for a holiday period, it was a disaster. It caused it to be pirated very widely.” Doing it again is certainly a gamble and we’ll have to wait until March 30, when it hits Australian cinemas, to see if it pays off. Mr Burke told CNet that so far, the company had only received some 14 e-mails from fans “expressing their disappointment.”“That’s not a massive backlash,” he said.