A bunch of folks have been sending in the story of how an early version of the movie Wolverine
has leaked online, well before the movie goes to theaters. The NY Times even describes this as unprecedented
and eats up the movie industry's claim that this is some huge problem. Not surprisingly, the NY Times article was written by the same reporter who recently wrote an article basically repeating unproven movie studio claims
that piracy was damaging its business -- a point disproved weeks later in the same NY Times (by a different reporter) noting that the movie business is seeing a huge surge in attendance
As has been pointed out over and over again, there's very little evidence that movie "piracy" cannibalizes film attendance. That's why the most "pirated" films are also the biggest box office hits
. It's not too hard to figure out why: people go out to the movies for the social experience, not just for the content. And putting in place smarter business models can help drive more people to the actual theaters, even if they saw the content online first.
But, of course, that's not how the industry sees it, and 20th Century Fox has wasted no time in going after anyone sharing the film
and trying to hunt down who leaked it. That is, of course, the company's right. But, it does seem that its resources might be better spent focusing on giving people a real reason to go see the film in the theaters.
If anything, it seems the real fear
is that the version that's been released isn't very good -- and that's
what will keep people away from seeing the film in the theater. That "early word of mouth" that studios have been blaming
for bad box office turnout. And, certainly, you can understand why it would be upsetting to the studio to have an unfinished version out there (especially if it's missing many of the sound effects and special effects). But, even so, instead of going all legal and threatening, the studio could have responded in a way that built
anticipation to get people to actually go see the movie.
Why not be straightforward about it, saying, something along the lines of:
Hey Wolverine fans! We know that you're all looking forward to the release of the movie next month. We're excited too! By now you may have heard that an early totally unfinished version has been leaked online. It's missing a whole bunch of stuff -- including some amazing special effects -- and honestly, this version isn't a finished product at all. We think you'll get a much better overall experience by waiting for the full finished product, but we certainly understand that some of you just can't wait (trust us, we feel the same way!). If that's the case, please, feel free to check it out, but please remember that this isn't even close to the final version. If anything, think of this as a "behind-the-scenes" peek of just what a movie looks like before all the real "movie magic" gets put in there. If you do check it out, we hope you'll join us May 1st to check out the finalized version as well on the big screen the way we intended for you to see this awesome movie. It's just a month away!
Sure, I just made that up on the spot -- but if Fox had released a statement like that, just think of the reaction among the folks who this unauthorized version would likely reach. Rather than being treated like criminals, they'd be treated like fans -- and with a bit of honesty. Personally, it would make me a lot more likely
to want to go (pay and) see the movie when it came out. Would it really have been that difficult to do that? It certainly would be a lot cheaper and more effective than "spending the day demanding that copies of the film be removed from the largely anonymous swath of Web sites that swap movie files" as the NY Times reported folks at Fox Studios did.