The Hugh Jackman cat is out of the bag, as a workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine dated March 2nd (the film’s release date is currently scheduled for May 1st.) is now roaming the Internet. The copy is being called “DVD quality,” because it’s clearly a straight […]

wolverine_leak_unfinished_cgiThe Hugh Jackman cat is out of the bag, as a workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine dated March 2nd (the film’s release date is currently scheduled for May 1st.) is now roaming the Internet. The copy is being called “DVD quality,” because it’s clearly a straight digital transfer with no visible watermarks or timecode. But I’d say it’s a stretch to call something DVD quality when you can see the wire work and much of special effects are missing (though the New Zealand locations are stunning as usual).

Twentieth Century Fox has already armed and fired the propaganda cannon in response, but will this really affect the market?

It’s certainly a neat look behind the curtain at how a summer blockbuster is put together. While reports on message boards claim there are no scenes missing, there were reshoots just a few months ago that likely just haven’t made the cut yet. And in the wake of this release I wouldn’t be surprised if the storyline was edited further.

There is a basic problem, however, with suggestions that the leak will hurt box-office business. Films don’t really make most of their money in ticket sales any more — DVD sales are where it’s at. Would studios accuse theaters doing banner business of hurting the DVD market? No. And the second the DVD is out, it will be all over the Internet anyway. Will it still sell millions of DVDs, leak or no leak, boffo B.O. or no boffo B.O.? Yes.

The other problem with these assumptions is that commenters on Mininova and other torrent distribution sites almost unanimously say they’ll be going to see the movie in theaters. Since, after all, most potential fans aren’t slavering to see Hugh Jackman’s finely textured performance as an actor. If they wanted to see a middle-aged Australian prancing about without any bloody stabbing or explosions, they would have bought tickets for The Boy from Oz.

The highlight of the day comes from comments made to Deadline Hollywood Daily by unnamed studio officials: “Twentieth Century Fox claims it’s an old rough cut without FX, music, etc — and may contain an April Fool’s virus,” writes DHD reporter Nikke Finke.

While a few malefactors might try to capitalize on the opportunity to post fake files that are virus-laden, the file-sharing community is usually pretty quick to sniff these out, and certainly the Xvid-encoded versions that are racking up tens of thousands of downloads within 12 hours of release can’t spawn any viruses or malware.

Rather than representing the modern threat of the Internet to existing business models, the leak simply represents the expansion of the movie business fueled by digital technology. Where once only Angelenos in the biz had access to early leaks, with the occassional New Yorker seeing a third-generation videocasette dub, now it’s worldwide. In this case, the workprint is from Australian company that’s involved in an American film shot in New Zealand and Canada. You can’t have that digitally enabled globalization cake and not have to eat it once in a while, too.

If Hollywood is serious about stopping these sorts of leaks, it should stop complaining about the Internet and give employees and subcontractors stakes in the profits. After all, post-production crew working long hours and earning day rates could really care less if a movie does well in the market. And trust me, this one will still make plenty of money.

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  1. CasinoEmeraldQueen Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    This notice’s in every post on the web today.

  2. Thee Stranger Wednesday, April 1, 2009

    I doubt this will happen, but I’m hoping to see some copies of this film with amature effects and score put in.

  3. Sorry but Fox had this coming. When you make crap, people will treat it like crap. Their ‘artistic visions’ murdered the plot and characters…one in particular. Any hope for Deadpool showing up on the big screen again has been dashed all to hell..including any hopes for a spin-off movie. Fox, if you’re listening…I hope the recession gets you. It’s time to clean out the old, tired movie studios with the same old and tired directors that have absolutely no idea what they’re doing when it comes to fans of a series. It’s true, your worst fears? That Deadpool gets eyebeam/teleporting/arm-blades, turning him into a crappy version of Mortal Kombat’s Baraka? It’s all true. Thanks Fox. Because you thought the character needed to be deadlier and the kabooms be more spectacular for a finish, you have successfully destroyed one of Marvel’s legendary comic characters onscreen. May your punishment hit you in your collective wallets and hit you HARD.

  4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine Leaks, Is This A Good Thing?: MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer April 2, 2009 | MediaBytes with Shelly Palmer Thursday, April 2, 2009

    [...] month before its scheduled premier, a work print of X-Men Origins: Wolverine has leaked to the Internet. While Fox claims the leak is a “rough cut without FX, music, and may contain an April [...]

  5. If you do not know who deadpool is the movie would be ok, but true fans are gonna be ticked off.

  6. The Great Wolverine Workprint Internet Leak (and Other Tales of Horror) « …a tale gingerly told… Sunday, April 5, 2009

    [...] the narrative and so on. And I’m not the only one: according to a great article over at newteevee.com, the torrent forums are full of fans eager to see the final cut. After all, the FX, explosions and [...]

  7. Fox News Columnist Roughed Up by Wolverine Leak Monday, April 6, 2009

    [...] have been fired over the weekend for a piece published Thursday that included a glowing review of the leaked X-Men Origins: Wolverine workprint — produced by fellow News Corp. property 20th Century [...]

  8. Second Take: Amazon HD VOD Not Ready for Prime Time? Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    [...] Second Take: Amazon HD VOD Not Ready for Prime Time? When Amazon released the HD version of its VOD service last week, the future of movie rentals seemed so close I could taste it. But while at first it was sweet, but after a few tries, it quickly turned bitter. Amazon’s high-definition streaming is close to being awesome, but a few problems keep it from being ready for prime time (and I want to know if you’ve had similar issues). To set the stage, I run Amazon and Netflix streaming through my Roku box using a wired connection to my cable broadband (speed tests I’ve run put me anywhere from 15-24mbps down). When I was watching movies, there was nothing else running on the network — in other words, no one was off in another room downloading the leaked version of Wolverine. [...]

  9. Jin Saotome, you’re DEAD WRONG. Wolverine will be spectacular in this, and there is nothing wrong they are doing with the character. You need to watch some of the animated shows to understand how Wolve’ has ‘evolved’ from the comics. He IS a deadly nutcase! So stop bashing FOX. Oh btw, if the workprint is really good i’ll see it at theaters just to see the difference on a huge screen.

  10. Wolverine Expected to Make Up to $100M, Despite Flu and Torrents Friday, May 1, 2009

    [...] Century Fox went nuts when a number of unfinished work prints of X-Men Origins: Wolverine showed up on BitTorrent sites a month ago. The studio bitterly complained that the summer blockbuster wasn’t finished and [...]

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