As you may have heard, late on Tuesday evening, a high quality version of Fox's hotly anticipated X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked online. The blockbuster wasn't slated for release until May 1, and even though Fox quickly had the file removed, copies have been popping up quickly on multiple file-sharing websites. Fox released a major damage-control statement earlier today:
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. The FBI and MPAA are also actively investigating the 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 fans of the film.The question now is how this leak will affect Wolverine's box office performance. My answer is: not that much. I think there a few things at play, here. First off, as much as the TV and film industries want the public to believe that all entertainment is moving online, that's not exactly the case. Internet viewing of movies and TV shows still represents the vast, vast minority of the viewing public. Most everyone sticks with the traditional way of watching movies in theaters, or waiting to rent them on DVD. Most people just aren't internet-savvy enough to figure it out. (Hey, I'm pretty wired myself, and I can't do Bittorrent!) Second, Wolverine is the kind of film people want to see on the big screen. It's part of the fun, and I think that most people are willing to wait one more month and get the full, sensory experience instead of watching it on their computer early. Finally, there's the fanboy factor. The only people that are clamoring to snag a downloadable copy of Wolverine are the ones who are going to see it 18 times on opening weekend anyway.
All in all, I sincerely doubt that Wolverine's box office will be much affected by the leak. Fox is doing a good job of controlling the multiple copies, and I really don't think we need to worry too much. EW has put together it's own collection of thoughts on the issue, which you should check out here. I still think Wolverine should be able to rake in $75 million in its opening weekend, no problem. What do you think? Am I being too lax? Could this leak really damage Wolverine's prospects at the movies? Let me know in the comments!