Wolverine, Box Office Results… And Piracy

from the what-do-you-do... dept

A few folks have sent in Matthew Belloni’s attempt to quantify how much the leak of Wolverine “cost” at the box office. On one point we agree: the number is basically impossible to calculate in any reasonable way. Yet, that doesn’t stop Belloni, whose estimates seem to be based on some odd assertions. His first number ($7.18 million) is based on the obviously untrue idea that everyone who downloaded the movie didn’t buy a ticket. That makes no sense, and it’s odd that it’s even included. The second and third numbers ($15.75 million and $14 million) are based on comparisons to other “similar” movies which grossed a bit more in their opening weekends. But, in both cases, those movies actually got really good reviews. That’s not the case with Wolverine, which has received pretty damn bad reviews. Rotten Tomatoes has it at only 37% positive reviews. That’s really bad. And it’s somewhat ridiculous to then compare it’s opening weekend to Iron Man last year. Iron Man came in at 93%. Belloni claims these movies are “review proof” but offers no evidence of that whatsoever. I know I only saw Iron Man because of the awesome reviews, and since many people have associated the failure of the Hulk movie to bad early reviews, this is actually the first I’ve heard that these movies are somehow “review proof.”

Belloni does include a somewhat snarky “$0” possibility if “the copyleft” was correct that the impact of the downloading didn’t hurt the movie at all. But he doesn’t do much to investigate that claim at all. He certainly doesn’t explore that perhaps the real issue may not have been with the fact that the movie was leaked, but with the way 20th Century Fox responded to the leak. In acting like jerks, threatening everyone, and even firing a reviewer, it also seems likely that some people purposely boycotted the opening weekend. Instead, if the studio had been smart and actually responded in a smart way, it could have increased interest in the actual movie. So, I’d argue that if there was any “loss” in opening weekend revenue, the fault would have to lie with the studio for its reaction, rather than the leak.

Either way, the movie still brought in $87 million and destroyed the competition in the theaters this past weekend. It’s difficult to see how anyone in Hollywood could claim with a straight face that the leak did much harm to the movie. The movie brought in a ton of money, and even if we grant the implausible theory that the leak “harmed” the theater revenue, once again it seems like if the studio and the theaters just focused on giving people a reason to see the film in the theaters, the leak would be totally meaningless.

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Comments on “Wolverine, Box Office Results… And Piracy”

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49 Comments
RD says:

I would just like to say...

I would just like to give a big, huge, gigantic FUCK YOU to the entertainment industry as a whole, and the MPAA in particular.

You asshats WHINED like babies that this leak would UTTERLY DESTROY the box office and interest in this movie. You moved to have STRONGER LAWS made to counteract this “threat.”

You stomped your feet and screamed at the top of your lungs to whoever would listen that this was a disaster, that it would cut the very heart out of the movie business. You cried that if this sort of “piracy” kept happening, that this was the beginning of the end!

Now that you are proven absolutely, unequivocally and completely wrong (see also: Dark Knight), you only have 2 possible responses:

a) Eat crow, admit it wasnt as big a problem as it appeared and that if you make something people WANT TO SEE and give them a reason to pay for it, you will profit from it.

or

b) Whine and complain EVEN MORE that, though the movie made 87 million, it COULD HAVE MADE MORE and that you are somehow “suffering” or “deprived” because of it, thus showing your absolute avarice and naked greed for all the world to see.

So which is it hollywood? Because you cant have it both ways.

PS – I’m quite sure the victims of the Somali pirates would be overjoyed that you keep using the term “pirate” for copyright infringement (not a crime, btw, its a civil matter), thus marginalizing their plight and deaths.

Scott says:

Re: I would just like to say...

Media pirates are the ones who burn cheap DVD’s & CD’s and sell them on the street and in street markets around the world.

Filesharers are, like you say, committing infractions of civil statutes and/or violating user agreements which falls under contract law, also civil.

So, the devils are actually confusing the issue, at least in the public eye, by using the term “piracy”. True, WE know that individuals who participate in P2P are not committing CRIMINAL acts, but the more they use piracy and the more they get away with it, the more the term will entrench itself into daily usage, and the more the filesharers will be equated with CRIMINAL pirates. Until a judge (probably one eyeing a career change into politics or in the private – media related – sector) decides that the public perception just has to be true and the difference will disappear.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re:

No, I get it, and they are right. The movie leak probably did make an impact on sales…

..because we knew it was going to be a shitty movie before we had to fork over $10 to see it.

I’d say, more than piracy, putting out a shitty movie may have hurt their sales a little.

That being said: I saw the leaked version and still went to see it. I know, I’m a sucker. I thought that maybe if the special effects/music were added that maybe it would make the overall experience better.

It didn’t.

PS- Go ahead and wait until after the credits roll. What you’ll find is completely retarded on more levels than I can explain.

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: Re:

To be clear, we all knew the storyline was weak but the movie itself had sub par CGI. At several parts, his claws looked fake, you could totally see that he wasn’t actually in front of some of the mediocre explosions, etc. It was like they didn’t even care or employed special effects people who hadn’t learned anything new since the late 90’s. (Maybe a combo of the two.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I particularly noticed how terrible the effects were for the scene of the group in front of the helicopter at the end (not mentioning who was on the helicopter just in case people don’t want me to spoil it). It looked fake entirely for no reason. i thought maybe something was gonna happen, but no. They were people in front of a helicopter in a little spot of open land in the trees, yet it looked like they were in front of a movie screen and weren’t even there.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Comparing to other movies

“the recession boost”

What the hell is this? Now movies should make *more* money because we’re in a recession?

If you compare it to X3, Hulk, and Fantastic Four (all similar PG-13 movies), it Box Office seems reasonable. There is no way you can compare it to Iron Man, which is a vastly superior movie.

Comparing B.O. is difficult because there is little correlation between ratings and B.O. There is probably a correlation between advertising budget and B.O. but those numbers are common knowledge.

Gabe says:

Re: Comparing to other movies

If you compare it to X3, Hulk, and Fantastic Four (all similar PG-13 movies), it Box Office seems reasonable. There is no way you can compare it to Iron Man, which is a vastly superior movie.

I agree. This movie was rated similarly as X3, Hulk, and F4, and took about the same at the box office.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Comparing to other movies

Indeed.

Also, it has to be remembered that as well as being a popular and good movie, Iron Man was the first movie ever to feature that character. The X-Men movies focussed so much on Wolverine as a central character, this might as well just have been called X-Men 4: The Prequel. Other than fleshing out the origin story already discussed in X2 and serving the geeks with some otherwise omitted character appearances, this film had little reason to be made in the first place.

Compared to other 4th movies in franchises and other similarly panned/rated comic book movies, Wolverine has done exactly how you’d expect it to. Later movies in franchises also typically make less money than their predecessors, so making less money than X3 shouldn’t be a surprise.

It’s just yet another CYA move for Fox to make in front of their investors to try and explain why the shitty output they’ve been making over the last few years isn’t making as much money as it used to. I’m personally hoping that Terminator: Salvation (another 4th movie in a franchise) and the new Harry Potter both suffer similar leaks, then turn out to be both good movies and highly successful. Just to compare and contrast…

DJ (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And Donald Trump lost money in some stocks last year when the market crashed. But he still ended up MAKING money in other stocks.

Profit is profit. If the industry was actually coming out in the red, AND it was DIRECTLY because of “piracy” I’d agree with you, but they’re not; and I’m living proof that just because there are leaks, doesn’t mean that EVERYONE saw it.

Also, movie theaters offer an environment that [most] home systems just can’t compete with. So even if someone saw the “pirated” version, that doesn’t mean that they ARE NOT going to see it in the theaters. It could even be argued that doing so actually HELPS the industry, because someone who wouldn’t have gone to the theater, now wants to BECAUSE of the “pirated” version they saw.

They’re just bitching because their profit is (supposedly) not AS HIGH.

Rob (profile) says:

I find it rather amusing that Mr. Belloni feels that it is a bad thing that people avoided going to see this movie because they realized what a turd it is.

I will concede that piracy probably does hurt crap entertainment, but I would also submit that this is a good thing for consumers, it lets us filter the good from the bad and makes in less profitable for the MAFIAA to keep pumping out garbage movies. The fact that Mr. Belloni would side with the multi-million dollar corporation and their right to continue to peddle swill to the unwitting consumer is very telling of the way the entertainment industry thinks of its customer base…

John (profile) says:

If it weren't for the leak...

I wouldn’t have even known the movie was coming out.

I think that it’s ridiculous to assume that because someone downloaded an unfinished movie that they wouldn’t bother to see it in it’s finished form in the theater. I would imagine that it would be compelling to go and see the finished product to see how it compared with the earlier version that was downloaded.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Kinda off-topic...

While I disagree with the comparison with X3 (don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying X3 was great, but I still think it was better than Wolverine), it’s not saying much to say it was better than Spider-man. Part of me wishes they’d reboot Spider-man or even do a Superman Returns equivalent or something. The character of Peter Parker/Spider-man is SOOO much better when he’s in his later life and not the whiney teenager. They should redo it and recast spidey and tie it in with the avenger’s movie (he was in the avengers), assuming they really do make an avengers movie.

Prof. X says:

It did lousy because...

It did lousy because it got bad reviews… and not just the ones posted… my brother went to see it friday night without me because I had plans. I was planning on seeing it on Saturday night with my girlfriend but he texted me and said “It was ok”…

If he would have said “It was awesome!”, I would have gone ahead and taken my girlfriend to see it. But I’m not going to waste good “man film” currency with her by taking her to a movie that’s only so-so. I’ll save it for Star Trek next weekend.

The reason films tank or thrive is CONSUMERS. Whereas before, you had to wait until the day after the film to get a review… perhaps longer if you had to wait for the Sunday paper, now it’s all instant. Now, you can get a 1 second text that tells you.

They need to stop blaming people, piracy, aliens or whatever and start making good films that people want to see. Put up or shut up.

Matt Bennett says:

I’m a “comic-lite” dork, and I was pretty excited for this movie. I agree, “it was ok”. What’s sad is that I see elements of an awesome movie in it, had it just been edited a little differently, had a few cheezy lines taken out, it coulda rocked. Iron man, had no lameness, there was no wasted fat. Very different quality of movie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Movies and Piracy

I have pirated copies of almost every movie released in the past 18 months(including Wolverine) some were great, some sucked rocks, and others were just so-so. But in every case of a good or better movie I did go see it in the theater. In fact most of them I took my son with me. We went to see Wolverine yesterday at the theater. They make too big of a deal about piracy! Produce more quality movies and people will spend the money to see them!

Mike says:

Impact not mentioned...

The $0 if downloading had no impact on movie attendance is reasonable, and since it got short shrift it figures the a positive affect on movie attendance was completely ignored.

I’m not actually trying to make the case for this, but it seems just as possible that downloading a bootleg copy of the movie could cause people to go see it who otherwise wouldn’t, and that wouldn’t be a $0 impact but a -$ impact (where negative dollars are dollars they got that they otherwise wouldn’t have).

Lastly, I really enjoyed the movie as did the friend I went with. But that’s sort of irrelevant.

Dodgy Bob says:

My research

Based on my research, piracy cost this movie exactly $0. That’s based on the fact that I had the rips available to me (I didn’t download ’em) but went to see it last night in the cinema anyway.

I don’t know why it got bad reviews, I actually thought it was pretty good, especially the bit where Wolverine … (no, I won’t spoil it for you guys (other than the clowns that don’t realize a movie called Wolverine has a character in it called, wait for it, “Wolverine” :-).

I actually prefer to pony up the money to see what I think will be good movies, and reviewers don’t know squat about my tastes.

Allen (profile) says:

They did lose money

There must be some people who saw a pirated copy and decided the product was not worth the price. And of these people there must be some that might otherwise have sent money on a theatre ticket.

But the only reason anyone can think of this is a loss is because (generally) you cant get a refund if the film sucks.

It’s interesting that the position that it is OK to sell defective product and refuse refunds is a key assumption in behind any estimate of the losses piracy causes.

Anonymous Coward says:

what bothers me is that the entertainment industry used this particular case to get the FBI to raid a datacenter in Dallas. They shut down 50 companies and confiscated all of their hardware. All because of a leak? What ever.

I have not purchased any form of entertainment in the past 10 years. I have my neighbors mail order rentals sent to me and we do our thing, I give them to him and he returns them. We both benefit and everyone is happy. Cept the Maffia.. who cares.

kevjohn (profile) says:

Wolveryawn (see what I did?)

I purposely avoided the the leaked workprint to get the full experience at the theater. Meh. Shoulda just stuck with the workprint. Nah, I kid I kid. It wasn’t horrible, just not great. Certainly not better than any of the superhero flicks released last year.

On a side note, I noticed all the ads right before the movie came out were really pimping the special effects. I was wondering if this was an effort to lure the workprinters into thinking the finished effects were worth the price of admission alone. I haven’t seen the leaked film (yet), but I’ll go out on a limb and say they probably weren’t. Anyway, would it be reasonable to chalk the costs of this possibly changed advertising strategy up to the downloaders?

Erik91764 says:

Who could have been responsible for the leak? Maybe it had something to do with Fox making such a big deal of having the trailer removed from any website that wasn’t affiliated with it’s business partners? Now you can watch it right on youtube, on the official Marvel channel. Right where it belongs.

Common sense tells me that any comic book fan who see’s this unfinished cut of the Wolverine film will want to see the finished cut. Anybody who see’s the leaked version and doesn’t have an interest in seeing the movie in an actual theater on a giant screen and movie theater sound isn’t a part of your core audience and probably wasn’t going to go see the movie anyway.

Anonymous Coward says:

What to stop movie piracy? Tell us what movies are really about. Not your 2 min highlight reel caller a trailer. Best example “Marley & Me”. Wow a feel good movie, tons of comedy, great to see with you kids. Well thats what the movie industry told me. To get people to the movies let them know if they will like it. How about a web site showing the first half hour of a new movie? Hook us and then get us to pay for it. Some people like the supposedly “bad” movies, some hate “good” one. No one will stop going to the theater because of a bootleg copy. But if they knew in advance what a movie was really about maybe they would be more likely to spend the $10. If you really like a movie you first read about it online, then you search it to see if you can find clips or bootlegs, then you go the theater and watch it, then you go buy the DVD, maybe the Blu-Ray too, and finally you buy the ultimate fan deluxe directors cut DVD. I mean really sometimes people pay for all the dvd editions of movies they enjoyed in the theater, where’s the money loss in that. Star Wars is a great example, how many copies of “A New Hope” does the average fan boy own?
I don’t know but George Lucas know? Repackage the movie with or without extras, add or takeout effects and you have your core audience by the short hairs. I guess the short of all this is tell us what you’re selling, make it worth our time and money, and market it to the right groups and you won’t have to worry about someone squinting at their computer screen watching a 2inch representation of your movie for free.

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