If you clicked around some of your favorite fansites this morning, you undoubtedly came across a few "news" stories that proved themselves to be the now-customary April Fools Day gags.
One particular item that was NOT a joke, however, was that an early version of next month's big-budget comic book flick X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE had found its way online to various video hosting and torrent tracking sites. Not previews or studio-sanctioned clips -- a workprint of the film in its entirety.
Fox has since issued a response: "Last night, a stolen, incomplete and early version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was posted illegally on websites. It was without many effects and had missing scenes and temporary sound and music. We immediately contacted the appropriate legal authorities and had it removed. We forensically mark our content so we can identify sources that make it available or download it. The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law - the courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts and the last person who committed such a crime is still in jail. The FBI and the MPAA also are actively investigating this crime. We are encouraged by the support of fansites condemning piracy and this illegal posting and pointing out that such theft undermines the enormous efforts of the filmmakers and actors, and above all, hurts the fans of the film."
Given the current nature of the internets, it's virtually impossible to prevent the movie's proliferation at this point -- you can't put the shit back in the goose, as my old man used to say. The finished movie hits screens on May 1st, but whether this incident will have a noticeable impact on the box office is now the question.
This type of occurrence is not unprecedented -- a workprint leak of HOSTEL 2 was partially blamed for that sequel's relatively weak tally, but similar situations didn't prove detrimental to the box office earnings of TAKEN, AMERICAN GANGSTER or the HALLOWEEN remake.
While there will always be a percentage of internetizens who actively seek pirated/bootleg/camera copies of movies, it's probably safe to say that the average consumer still prefers the theater experience, judging by the massive amounts of cash plunked down at multiplexes so far in 2009. A high-profile flick like WOLVERINE may not have much to worry about -- after all, he's resilient and full of adamantium.
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|Extra Tidbit:||One has to wonder if this was someone's payback at Fox honcho Tom Rothman and his supposed disdain for the X-MEN franchise and/or its fanbase... but it's certainly a pisser for star (and producer) Hugh Jackman, who seems like a great dude.|