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The trouble with this system has always been that every region/country runs on a different schedule. The warm/cold seasonal cycle isn't the same. Vacations aren't the same. Holidays and traditions aren't the same. So, more often than not, movies that are looking to turn the biggest profit possible simply held off release until the most theoretically beneficial time in each territory. So what if people had to wait? Unless they were serious cinephiles and followed the trades it's unlikely they'd even known certain films had been released yet, and it's not like they could see the movie any other way.

Of course, that hasn't been the way it's worked for a while now. The speed and versatility of internet communication has turned even the most casual film fan into a highly-informed "insider," and streaming downloads have turned movie piracy - once a minor irritant consisting of cheap camcorder dubs - into a billion dollar criminal industry with a serious impact on studio earnings, and both of these developments are only exacerbated by this now-outdated release system.

Even if most studios are still making enough money from their timed-release blockbusters for piracy not to be a major issue, things aren't going to stay that way. It's been demonstrated that "casual" movie pirates tend to act out of impatience more than lack of disposable income, and nothing drives that impatience like knowing the big movie you want to see is being withheld from you. It's one thing to put in the effort of skulking around flea markets looking for the table with the bootlegs, it's quite another to punch a few keys and have what you wanted streaming right into your home.

Hollywood, of course, is aware of this - that's why you've seen a gradual uptick in the number of major releases that open on the same day worldwide. They know that's the only real way to make any kind of dent in convenience-piracy, but they also know it's fraught with issues of its own, relating to the kind of vital intangibles that give studio statisticians nervous ulcers: National pride, for one.

The fact is, any changeover to a universal worldwide release schedule will ultimately lead to said schedule lining up with whatever is most conducive to the largest possible audience, which at this point is still shorthand for "The United States." So, if you happen to be living in a country where "vacation time" is generally December and you were hoping to take in that year's big action film during your break, well... tough. It'll come out in July, whether you're having final exams or not, because that's when the Americans are on vacation and there's just more of them than there are of you.

And speaking of Americans, even that won't be true for much longer. The most rapidly-expanding market for movies (and everything else, really) is China, and even though their government imposes strict restrictions on how many Western films can be shown at a time the citizen's voracious appetite for content (and said government's voracious appetite for foreign investment) is growing by leaps and bounds. Soon enough, it's conceivable that they could be the ones Hollywood is building their schedule around.

The bottom line is, this is something that will get sorted in the near future, just not as cleanly or quickly as people probably want it to be. Also, does anyone know when school vacation is in mainland China? Because I think that might be something I want to know pretty soon.

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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