It wasn’t an April fools joke. The fourth installment in the X-Men series – X-Men Origins: Wolverine starring Hugh Jackman was leaked onto the internet via BitTorrent networks in a DVD-quality, full-length and unfinished state last Wednesday, a full month before official release.
The leaked version is said to be a rough cut of the film with missing special effects, temporary music and sound. A slideshow of images from the movie shows scenes lacking full CGI, action sequences with stunt ropes and green screens clearly visible.
20th Century Fox were understandably panicked that their estimated $130 million summer flick was now publicly available and issued a war cry statement saying that source of the leak “will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”. They proceeded to get the FBI involved in finding the source of the leak. A raid on a data server centre where millions of dollars in computer equipment was seized without proper explanation turned out to be unrelated but certainly helped fueled the fallout. Three men have now said to be charged in connection with the leak but that is unconfirmed at time of press.
Elsewhere, film critic Roger Friedman downloaded and reviewed the unfinished copy of the movie, bragging rather unctuously about the ease he could download pirated movies. Friedman who worked for Fox 411, a subsidiary of News Corp (who also own 20st Century Fox) for 10 years was unsurprisingly let go from his position last Friday and his review was removed from the site. Talk about biting the hand that feeds.
Versions of movies leak onto the net all the time but a film with such a massive budget leaking in such high-quality, a full month in advance is unprecedented. The music industry has had to deal with leaks like this for years yet the movie industry is usually a lot more secure though films copied from advance review (screeners) and versions recorded discreetly in the cinema (cams) do turn up in their droves on the net.
Initial estimated download figures were placed at 75,000 in the first few hours of the leak but that’s sure to be closer to at least the million mark by now. All movie industry eyes will be on the numbers X-Men Origins collects in the opening few weeks to gauge what effect such massive download numbers have had on box office takings.