What Jobs' Passing Could Teach Hollywood

I don't know if you heard, but Apple (NAS: AAPL) co-founder and phenomenally successful leader Steve Jobs passed away last Wednesday. In doing so, he also unveiled an incredibly obvious flaw in the movie industry.

In 1999, Time Warner (NYS: TWX) channel TNT produced a 97-minute original movie about Jobs and Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) creator Bill Gates. Starring Anthony Michael Hall as Gates and E.R. luminary Noah Wyle as Jobs, Pirates of Silicon Valley went on to become an award-winning cult favorite. Jobs himself hated the movie but loved Wyle's portrayal of him.

So this little number is hot right now. Only problem is, it's not easy to get your hands on a copy.

The usual suspects
(NAS: NFLX) has it but only in DVD format, and Pirates is listed as a "long wait" here in Tampa Bay at least. Blockbuster and the DISH Network (NAS: DISH) mothership don't have it for steaming either. Physical stores carry one copy in all of Tampa, 30 miles away and -- of course -- rented out already.

How about Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) ? Ah, DVD and VHS only. The disc "usually ships in 6 to 11 days," meaning that it's sold out. Bridesmaids could be yours tomorrow, you know. It's also the third most popular drama DVD on Amazon right now, behind Fast Five but ahead of X-Men: First Class and preorders for The Help. In other words, people are willing to pay good money for a full-priced retail copy today. And as I write this, there's only one VHS copy in stock -- act now!

Hulu? Nope. Broadcast TV? Nobody plans to air it in the foreseeable future, so put your TiVo (NAS: TIVO) remote away -- you won't be able to record it that way. TNT has an online pay-per-view platform, but its own film is nowhere to be seen.

See what I mean here? There's a bankable event happening, and Hollywood is letting the money slip through its fingers. By the time you get your disc from Amazon or Netflix, Jobs' passing will be old news. And nobody at Time Warner thought it'd be a good idea to sell streaming licenses to Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix on a one-off basis.

Eyes wide shut
So apart from already having the movie in your DVD (or VHS) library, the only reliable way to catch Pirates while it's still hot is, ironically, piracy. Whether by copyright-trampling direct downloads or unauthorized uploads to video-streaming sites, you have to step way outside legal bounds and funnel no money whatsoever to the film's stars, producers, or official distributors.

Keep your eyes open and you'll see this happening again, and again, and again. Whatever's happening in the world today, there's probably a movie or 12 that would tap right into the zeitgeist -- if only we could get our hands on them. And it's almost always ridiculously hard.

Netflix, Hulu, and others are ready to fill that money-sucking void. Will the studios ever realize the opportunities they're missing? Streaming can make piracy walk the plank, after all.

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At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundowns shares of Netflix and TiVo, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Amazon.com, Apple, and Netflix, creating a bear put spread position in Netflix, and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. You can check outAnders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him onTwitterorGoogle+, or peruseour Foolish disclosure policy.

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