There's been famous online leaks before, from the work print of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" to the more recent work print of the "Doctor Who" new season premiere. In both cases they were rough cuts with unfinished effects and watermarks galore.
This week though saw perhaps the most damaging early leak to date - a DVD-quality copy of "The Expendables 3" onto piracy sites and torrenting networks, a full three weeks before the film is scheduled to be released anywhere.
Variety reports that copies began cropping up on torrent-sharing sites Wednesday and downloads started to spike Thursday,according to data provided by piracy-analytics firm Excipio. The film has reportedly already been downloaded 189,000 times over a 24-hour period. It's a double blow to the film's distributor Lionsgate as the key demo for the film are often also the biggest users of illegal file-sharing services.
Screencaps attached to the files indicate there are no identifying watermarks, while comments on story threads suggest it is the full theatrical version and not an early cut or workprint. The original source of the pirated copy is unclear at this time.
Which leads to the big question, could this put a damper on the film's box-office? Hard to say at this time. A DVD rip of Liam Neeson's "Taken" was widely available online ahead of its US theatrical release, but that film still generated a whopping $145 million in the U.S. (almost double its overseas haul).
Similarly, and despite the work print leak, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" still managed to make $373 million worldwide - a gross right up there with all the pre-'Days of Future Past' films.
A lot will depend upon the film's performance and whether it matches the first and second films in this series which have grossed $275 million and $305 million worldwide respectively.