No, this is not an April Fool joke – even I thought so for about two minutes until I saw proof.
Early Tuesday US time a near DVD-quality workprint of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” found its way onto the peer-to-peer torrenting networks – a full month before the film’s release.
A film leaking online is nothing new, poor quality camcorded versions and/or only marginally better Telecine/Telesync transfers of most films usually hit the torrent networks within days of their US general release.
Proper DVD rips and screeners for festival titles and/or Oscar contenders have also been leaking with more and more vigor of late.
Yet outright workprint leaks are rare as they take place before public release of a film and so are often much easier to trace the source. Ang Lee’s 2003 effort “Hulk”, Eli Roth’s “Hostel Part II” and Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” reboot notably saw working prints of their films leaked a week or two before their theatrical releases.
The leak of “Wolverine” though, a full month before its cinematic release, has understandably sent shockwaves around Hollywood and the online community.
Even worse for the studio is the good quality of the transfer – what’s shown is essentially complete and in near-DVD quality with only a few unfinished effects shots pointing to its ‘work copy’ status according to comments left by those who’ve seen it.
This print also has a 106 minute runtime, making it apparently about fifteen minutes shorter than the final cut which means it likely lacks some or all of the reshoot footage shot in January in Canada. The film is still not finished and receiving final post-production touches according to anonymous sources here in Sydney.
Fox legal is understandably scrambling to shut copies down, a practice that studios have become surprisingly adept at. Yet while the studio may be able to stem much of the flow, once something like this is out there it never entirely goes away.
With no real time codes or identifying traits, the big questions have arisen – who is responsible and how can something like this happen?
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.
Then again even the most adamant basher of Tom Rothman’s regime couldn’t condone such an act. It’s an act that cruelly robs thousands of people of not just months of hard effort, but their potential livelihood as well.
As a friend of mine just said to me when we discussed this, people can be real sh*ts sometimes.
BTW, as of the time of this story’s publication, it’s certain that most leaks will be have been shut down by now while others will be under surveillance by various legal authorities. So if you’ve been reading this and getting an idea about looking for it, I’d advise against it.