Thursday, April 2

Leaking Wolverine: How Much Is Too Much?

"If it's a good movie, it won't f*cking matter. People will go see it. But if it's a bad movie, it could have consequences." — Geoff Ammer, recently departed worldwide head of marketing and distribution for Marvel Studios

At least that is the theory Ammer told AdAge about the an early print of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" being leaked via file-sharing technology such as BitTorrent. But is it true?

According to sources, News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox initially pointed out that the film had been leaked in an e-mail statement, drawing even more attention to the leak before it was removed by a site they did not identify. (It was BitTorrent). Along with the announcement, News Corp. rose 34 cents, or 5.1 percent, to $6.96 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading.

The buzz up more than quadrupled interest in the film yesterday as more than 75,000 downloads took place in a few hours. Prior, mentions of the film were steady but otherwise uneventful.

The studio also said the F.B.I. and the Motion Picture Association of America were both investigating the film’s premature distribution. The real concern, according to the studio, is that the leak was only 90 percent complete and has since received some negative buzz on blogs such as In Gob We Trust, which said "The entire film just felt cheesy, more in the vein of Batman Forever than anything else."

“We’ve never seen a high-profile film—a film of this budget, a tentpole movie with this box office potential—leak in any form this early,” said Eric Garland of file-sharing monitor BigChampagne told The New York Times.

In early 2008, a three-episode leak of Jericho Season Two (almost half of the truncated second season) quelled the excitement of the series return to television after a hard fought campaign by fans. CBS later told us it did not intentionally leak three episodes, but did release three episodes to reviewers.

That leak provided a interesting look at how fans view online leaks. Half were appalled by it; half speculated that the studio wanted the series leaked. Indeed, sometimes they do. The entertainment business is relying more and more on buzz to make major decisions. And a well-timed leak of information, clips, etc. can help drive it.

Both Jericho fans and Veronica Mars fans have kept a close eye on speculation that their series might find a new home on the silver screen. For Jericho fans, they've been receiving some mixed, although positive messages, about a Jericho movie. Veronica Mars fans have had a harder time hearing what many considered a green light only to have it turn red.

We disagree with the "leak to win" theories that seem to play on the emotions of fans or run too deep of a risk to derail momentum upon bad reviews by people predisposed to dislike them. In my opinion, fan groups, many of which are immersed in social media and vested in the creations, deserve authenticity from studios over roller coaster rides that only hope to measure prevailing interest. It's not that difficult to talk about the project over leaking the product, and provide movies a chance to thrive on their own merit.

All too often, leaks, intentional or not, are reviewed and commented on by the wrong people — people with little interest in the material — and then are panned. X-Men Origins: Wolverine could become a poster child example. In this case, the leak has resulted in a split decision among people who have seen the semi-complete film, thereby hindering early momentum that might have been driven by pockets of X-Men fans like those at X-Men Fan Site or groups within sites like


Rich on 4/2/09, 12:40 PM said...

More words:

"The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." — BBC

Barry on 4/3/09, 3:46 AM said...

HI Rich,

This seems to be yet another example of how things have changed which affect the entertainment industry but how the industry itself refuses to change. It used to be if things got locked up for the night they were relativley safe but this model no longer exists for the folks pumping big,big money into a potentially streaming torrent.

It occured to me that this danger of having one's secret stolen has been known for some time by the food industry where secret recipes that could be jotted down on a piece of paper and stuffed in a pocket still manage to stay a secret.

The technology (and Software) could be commisioned to allow audio and video to be alternately encoded, broken up and rearranged such that a near final product would not available for theft until it was released. All that seems to remain is for companys to put some money into guarding the very object of hype which is their livlihood.

Of course, people still get hurt on construction sites because putting money into safety eats into profits...


Rich on 4/5/09, 7:48 AM said...


I had an opportunity to see an unreleased rough cut at the home of a producer, recently. I might be providing some consultation on the promotion when its released.

It was controlled viewing, in that, he could have sent me home with a copy instead (though in violation of his contract) for an uncontrolled viewing. Had he done so, then the only safeguard would have been my integrity (much like his integrity was the only safeguard, which is why I watched the film there).

That said, it seems to me there are only two possible safeguards. Fixing the technology as you suggest; or fixing people.

Your solution seems much easier. :)



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