NOT April Fool’s — a workprint of the new X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE movie has been leaked and is propagating everywhere right now, much to the dismay of releasing studio Fox.
The so-called work-print copy is said to be a high-quality, full-length version of the film without time codes or a studio watermark, though some special effects are not yet complete.
As expected, reviews and readers’ comments about the movie have proliferated across the Internet in the few hours since the bootleg copy began circulating.
Naturally, everyone at Fox is beyond furious — the movie doesn’t open for another month, and this could put a Juggernaut-sized dent in the potential box office. A similar situation occurred in 2003 when a workprint of Ang Lee’s THE HULK was leaked…bad word of mouth over the effects (which weren’t finished yet) may have helped sink the film, although the Hulk dogs may have also contributed. But a pristine print a full MONTH before the movie comes out? This is serious business.
Garth Franklin at Dark Horizons looks at potential fallout:
The hunt has begun and with something this large there won’t just be lawsuits and prosecutions, but major changes and security crackdowns on the post-production process where the source of the leak seems to have come from.
The other question of course is will the leak have any effect on the box-office? That’s a more murky question. Fox’s biggest earner this year, the thriller “Taken”, had DVD rips from the international release leak online months before the US release – yet it obviously had no impact.
Fox’s next film, “Dragonball Evolution” opening next Friday, was already released in select Asian countries last month and incomplete poor-quality camcorded versions started appearing on the torrenting sites the other week.
The studio itself has earned a rather bleak reputation of interfering with filmmakers and often ignoring screenings for critics over the past two years, a behavior reflected in weak box-office returns last year, which might be a motive for such a leak.
Whatever the motives, movie sites are also stammering with a response as internet chatter proliferates over what everyone agrees is a dirty deed gets posted at their sites. AICN says they will not run any WOLVERINE reviews until the movie is in actual theaters.
Because the only way you’re seeing it right now is through illegal channels, and we’re not going to condone that. I hate running this story, but the deluge is about to come. Forums on other movie news sites are already overrun with links and reactions to a fairly high quality studio workprint that leaked this evening – and I don’t care to comment on any of it because I don’t want to encourage piracy at a time when the studios are laying off employees in droves. This is bad, bad, bad for the business.
But it’s also unprecedented. While I don’t know if this is the biggest film to ever leak (back in 2007, there were reports of SPIDER-MAN 3 rips turning up in China a week prior to release), I can’t think of a single $100 million-plus summer tentpole that hit the internet a full month early. This is significant because, as Drew posted at HitFix, no matter how hard Fox cracks down on this leak, the toothpaste is out of the tube. If you want to watch WOLVERINE online, you’re not going to have to work too hard to find it.
The Hulk leaker was eventually found and prosecuted — it turned out to be a guy from New Jersey who got a tape from a pal who worked for an ad agency. Security codes got him caught…if they ever figure out who leaked Wolvie, he or she will be left to the mercy of Rupert Murdoch. May God have mercy upon their soul.