Hollywood panics! X-Men Origins: Wolverine pirated, hits web a month before official release

Posted by Christian Zibreg

Late yesterday, an illegal copy of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked on the web -- one full month ahead of the official premiere slated for May 1. Naturally, it sent shivers down many Hollywood mogul's spines and also shocked analysts. It's also a big blow to 20th Century Fox, who fears the illegal copy and potentially skewed reviews could hurt the movie's revenue. Being an avid movies fan, I'm tempted to download it. On the other hand, I know it would be bad for my karma. Should I surrender? I (and many others) won't be buying our tickets when the time comes. Will you download or wait for the official release?

Chicago (IL) - Late yesterday, an illegal copy of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked on the web -- one full month ahead of the official premiere slated for May 1. Naturally, it sent shivers down many Hollywood mogul's spines and also shocked analysts. It's also a big blow to 20th Century Fox, who fears the illegal copy and potentially skewed reviews could hurt the movie's revenue. Being an avid movies fan, I'm tempted to download it. On the other hand, I know it would be bad for my karma. Should I surrender? I (and many others) won't be buying our tickets when the time comes. Will you download or wait for the official release?



We've gotten used to a world where illegal copies of the latest Hollywood flix appear online immediately following the official premiere, thanks to individuals who record a movie in theater with a camcorder and post such washed out copies on the web. Sometimes however, digital copies hit the web before a movie premiers, usually via review copies released to the press in advance. You can identify the source of such copies as they are signed by alternating between color and black or white in set intervals. What we're definitely not used to, however, is finding one of the most-anticipated blockbuster releases a full month ahead of it's scheduled premiere.
 

One-of-a-kind leak

So far, 20th Century Fox has no idea how the movie escaped its tight security protocols. Despite collaborative efforts by the studio, FBI and MPAA to block sites that host illegal copies, nobody could stop it spreading through file sharing networks that are P2P-based. As a result, both the studio and analysts alike are shocked and afraid of the potential damage to movie revenue. The film maker is also concerned about unfavorable early online reviews based on an unfinished copy of the movie.

This one is not your usual Internet copy, though. It came from post-production, meaning it lacks special effects. Placeholder music and sound effects further spoil the experience.  Nevertheless, most occasional movie goers will fight the temptation to watch the heavily hyped release one month in advance. But not all will, and more than your typical spoilers are likely to spread.
 

Wolverine and hype now backfiring

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the fourth installment in the successful Marvell-licensed series. Basically a prequel to the X-Men trilogy, the move has teased fan's appetites by focusing on the charismatic character of a wolf-like mutant called Wolverine, played by Australian-born Hugh Jackman who also co-produced the movie. The leak couldn't come at a worse time -- during the peak of its multi-million dollar marketing blitz. As a result, however, thousands have already download the movie even since yesterday, based purely on the hype surrounding the upcoming release, or possibly the thrill of viewing something that's not yet available to the public.

To download or not to download?

Of course, true movie fans would never sacrifice the true joy of a collective, shared experience at a theater for a degraded, half-baked copy viewed on tiny computer screens. The problem is, true fans are only a fraction of a much broader target audience. Conspiracy theorists even speculate the studio may have intentionally leaked a half-finished copy of the movie to pump up the hype. If so, this is the most risky marketing tactic I have seen to date, unlikely to bear fruits.


ALL ABOUT WOLVERINE
X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the prequel in the X-Men trilogy, focused on the character of charismatic mutant Wolverine, played by the Australian-born Hugh Jackman who also co-produced the movie. Investors are afraid that the movie revenue will suffer because pirated version hit the web a month before the official premiere slated for May 1.
[Click for slideshow]


Read on the next page:  Hollywood vs pirates, Apple vs pirates

 


 

Can Hollywood avoid record label doom?

The bad blood between the industry and the people who regularly pirate their entertainment has been brewing for years. Anything that can be digitized, which is pretty much everything these days, can be posted online. It only takes but one such copy to jeopardize tens and hundreds of millions of investment dollars by content creators.

The music industry, represented by RIAA, has tried lawsuit after lawsuit (more than 30,000 are still pending) against file sharers, though they later came to conclusion that legal means aren't the complete answer to combat music piracy. Fair alternatives to illegal music downloading, via the form of Apple's iTunes Store, send illegal downloading on a downward slope. CD sales have been plummeting for over six years now. Still, that's nothing compared with what could be in store for Hollywood when the true digital age fully catches up with their theater-quality offerings.

The huge file sizes of HD-compressed movies currently deter many from downloading. However, a number of growing fans and whetting their appetites with today's broadband capabilities. That technology base, combined with the requisite hype and marketing, might easily increase this growing trend in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, DVD sales are also free falling, but Blu-ray is not picking up nearly fast enough to counter its losses. Most promoted movies already generate the most illegal downloads. For instance, the Batman sequel The Dark Knight, which raked in well over $1 billion in sales globally so far, amassed over one million illegal downloads via BitTorrent in less than seven days, earning it the title: The most pirated movie of 2008.
 

The latest trend:  Pirating iTunes entertainment and iPhone programs

Recently, Apple has become the favorite target for piracy -- because of its dominance in the music player and digital entertainment distribution markets. The gadget maker recently became the victim of a fake iTunes gift card scam that are now sold online thanks to Chinese hackers who cracked Apple's algorithms for generating the codes redeemable for content sold on the iTunes Store. Last month, the hackers successfully cracked FairPlay DRM that protects paid iPhone applications from illegal copying. This, in turn, resulted in a worrying influx of sites that carry cracked paid iPhone programs for free. Several developers and industry experts estimate that one in five paid iPhone programs is now pirated.


THE MOST PIRATED MOVIE OF 2008
Last year, the Batman sequel "The Dark Knight" amassed over one million illegal downloads via BitTorrent in less than seven days, earning it the infamous title of "The most pirated movie of 2008".


What's your say? Do you download illegal copies of upcoming movies from time to time? Would you download X-Men Origins: Wolverine or other title that you have been waiting with great anticipation for months? If so, will you pay the ticket to watch the movie again on the big screen? Share your thoughts with other readers down in the comments section.