There are plenty of threats to the entertainment industry every year, but movie piracy consistently comes up as the biggest. Authorities continue to seek avenues to shut down the illegal downloading of movies, but apparently it is not enough. In 2010, nearly 100 million downloads were recorded – and those were just the top ten most pirated movies of the year.

The misconception with pirated movies is that those who watch on their computer are not actually going to the theater. For the most part, we can assume this is true. But when a film like Avatar comes in at the top spot with 16.5 million illegal downloads, one must wonder how many of those people also contributed to the movie’s record-breaking $2.7 billion at the worldwide box office.

On the other end of the spectrum is Kick-Ass. One of the most disappointing box office returns of the year is making huge waves in the piracy world. While most films would be thrilled with a near-$100 million worldwide box office, most fans argue that Kick-Ass deserved a bigger payday. While a portion of those who pirated the movie may have paid for a ticket as well, potentially $90 million of ticket sales vanished with the 11.4 million illegal downloads of Kick-Ass recorded in 2010.

If you thought Kick-Ass underperformed, take a look at The Hurt Locker‘s $48 million at the worldwide box office. The movie received massive critical acclaim, garnering a Best Picture victory at the Academy Awards, but it was a relative misfire from a financial perspective. The Hurt Locker comes in at number nine as the production continues a massive lawsuit against the digital pirates.

Take a look at the top 10 most pirated movies of 2010 according to Torrent Freak:

1.    Avatar / 16,580,000
2.    Kick-Ass / 11,400,000
3.    Inception / 9,720,000
4.    Shutter Island / 9,490,000
5.    Iron Man 2 / 8,810,000
6.    Clash of the Titans / 8,040,000
7.    Green Zone / 7,730,000
8.    Sherlock Holmes / 7,160,000
9.    The Hurt Locker / 6,850,000
10.    Salt / 6,700,000

One year since its theatrical release, it is no surprise to see Avatar at the top. It has had the longest window of opportunity of those in the final ten and clearly attracted the biggest audience ever. It’s strange to see Kick-Ass over Inception, considering the latter earned over 8 times as much money. But the crowd using illegal torrent sites to watch movies are typically within the demographic Kick-Ass was geared towards.

The most surprising movie in the above list is Green Zone. Paul Greengrass’ latest collaboration with Matt Damon didn’t even match its $100 million production budget at the worldwide box office and was generally not well-received by fans and critics. But clearly there was an audience somewhere for the film, in order for it to make this list.

Also missing from the list are three of the year’s top grossing movies of 2010 – Alice in Wonderland, Toy Story 3 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. There is no way to truly understand the methods of the evildoers who illegally download movies. Some do it out of pure laziness. Others do it because they want to make sure a movie is worth their money. No matter the reason, it is debilitating to the very industry that seeks to entertain them.

Will we see an incline in piracy due to increased ticket prices with next year’s massive slate of 3D movies? Will the 3D revolution force people out of the comfort of their computer screen and into theaters? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

Source: Torrent Freak via The Hollywood Reporter