Hollywood Desperate To Blame Bad Opening Box Office Of Expendables 3 On Piracy Rather Than The Fact That It Sucked

from the might-be-another-factor... dept

It’s been kind of crazy to watch movie studio Lionsgate go absolutely crazy over the fact that The Expendables 3 leaked online a few weeks ago. Within a few days, Lionsgate had filed a massive lawsuit, been granted a restraining order and followed it up with thousands of takedown notices, combined with targeting everyone from hosting providers to domain registrars, in a quixotic attempt to make the leaked files disappear.

The movie finally opened for real and the results — $16.2 million — were considered a disappointment. The credulous reporters over at Variety immediately have decided to pin the blame on the leak, rather than the fact that almost everyone agrees the movie sucks and that the third film in a crappy franchise almost never does particularly well anyway. The report points to some research claiming that when a film leaks, “it loses nearly 20 percent of its potential revenue.” Variety conveniently leaves out the fact that the research was done via a program “made possible through a gift from the MPAA,” which kinda seems relevant….

Meanwhile, it seems relevant that another study of a leak a few years ago of Wolverine under fairly similar circumstances suggested that the leak actually helped the film at the box office. At best, it seems that Hollywood might legitimately claim that the leaked copy made people realize that the movie sucked and told their friends not to go, but then they’re left arguing that they “made a movie so bad that pirates–who paid nothing to watch–told people it wasn’t worth seeing.” That doesn’t really sound like it’s the leak’s fault… so much as the fact that the movie sucked.

As always, the same basic rule has applied to movies: make a good product and any leak isn’t going to have significant impact at the box office. People go out to the movies for the social experience of it. A good movie is an event. Make a good movie and the fact that it leaks online isn’t going to have much of an impact. That’s not what happened here.

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Comments on “Hollywood Desperate To Blame Bad Opening Box Office Of Expendables 3 On Piracy Rather Than The Fact That It Sucked”

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Violynne (profile) says:

I just read the Variety article.


I’m at a loss on how in the hell the conclusion was drawn to say Variety “put the blame” on piracy, all the while citing factors indicating the movie franchise could have suffered from the fast release times and competition at the box office.

It even cited the same Wolverine leak as a debunk.

So please explain how this conclusion was made.

Violynne (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Man, my reading comprehension skills must not be in tune with the current generation, because the headline is asking if piracy is to blame.

There’s a tremendous difference between a question mark and a period/exclamation mark.

Bait trapping headlines are nothing new, but the context of the article is important, and nothing in the article indicates piracy is to blame.

If anything, it’s pretty much identical to this article, indicating it’s not a justifiable blame.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Man, my reading comprehension skills must not be in tune with the current generation, because the headline is asking if piracy is to blame.

Lol. Don’t really know anything about that, seeing that my generation was “current” about 30 years ago…..

Bait trapping headlines are nothing new, but the context of the article is important, and nothing in the article indicates piracy is to blame.

In my opinion, the Variety article definitely slants towards blaming piracy, even if they didn’t actually come out and say it outright.

Two of the three people they quoted basically said: “Piracy definitely hurt this movie and ah, oh yeah, the fact that people thought it sucked didn’t help.”

The third guy, who was sort of debunking the piracy side, still had to include “Even taking piracy out of the equation…” almost like it was already a forgone conclusion that piracy hurt sales.

So yeah, even though it wasn’t stated outright, that article reads like piracy is to blame, in my opinion.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Leaked copy

I’m surprised they ever made a second one, let alone a third. The first one sucked, and right at the same time there was another “let’s put a bunch of old action movie stars together” film coming out that was one of the best movies of the year: RED.

Who thought making more Expendables was a good idea?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Leaked copy

You just got to look at the numbers. Even though the second one bombed in the US with an 85 million box office with a 100 million budget and the first would by no means be considered a hit (only made 20 million over its budget in the US,)–they were very successful overseas (and the second did better than the first).

The studios now make most of their box office profit overseas, so that’s the market they cater to.


Re: Leaked copy

I have not seen any of these films at the cinema. I never had any interest in going to that level of bother or expense for any of them. At best, I might go for a $5 bargain bin copy of any of them. Although I would probably not even go that far. A Netflix “rental” is as far as I would go.

A mediocre action film with a bunch starring a bunch of has-beens? You’re seriously going to blame failure of THAT on piracy.

No. What you have here is a failure of the formula and the bean counter approach to creating art.

Even art created for commerce or entertainment needs a creative spark that accountants lack.

Whoever says:

"Word of mouth"

“It’s hard to measure, but the ripple effect, not only of the downloads, but of the word-of-mouth that spread as a result, can be seen in the soft opening.”

In other words, people knew that it was a crappy movie without having to pay to find this out. It’s more of the studios blaming social media for broadcasting the message that a movie isn’t worth watching.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I await copyright suits extolling the virtues of the film and cast as I’ve seen others do.

Somewhere there is an exec spinning this story as hard as possible in order to keep the job after greenlighting yet another crapfest.

The well is dry, we have millions of stories and ideas… but they are all locked up in copyright laws that made to convoluted to transverse.

O M G a bunch of senior citizens make a movie about them being bad asses and are SHOCKED that freaking exploding teenage turtles did better. Seriously.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Awful

I apparently have a higher tolerance for cheese than you, I found Expendables 1 watchable, though ultimately lame-ish. 2 was seriously lame, but was busy enough to hold my attention on a night I couldn’t sleep.

No way I would pay additional money to see either of them though, much less a cheesier-looking sequel. I’ll probably look at Exp. 3 when it finds it’s way to Netflix streaming.

Schlock actioners like this make a huge amount of their money overseas, and a leaked digital copy gives the DVD pirates a head start, hence the furious reaction, though doubtless too late.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Awful

a serious question here:

what does it say that i have no clue at all what any of these movies are and i could only tell you that stallone is apparently in them and i only know that because of an article that was on [H].
i would have to think that if your major release movie is so bad that not one person i know has said anything to me about these movies ever, and i have not even come across so much as an add on youtube for ANY of the existing three movies… you have made some serious errors that started way back when the first person said “yes! lets do this movie!!!”

Anonymous Coward says:

the studio knew the movie was shite. that’s why it was ‘leaked’. consider that it wasn’t thrown on the net for several weeks as well, shows it wasn’t worth doing. by going after the ISPs and the domain name registrars, i bet, was part of the plan. if they dont get a win over this for a crap movie, it wont really matter. if they get a win, it will set a precedent and it’s another step nearer the entertainment industries taking full control of the Internet, which has been the main aim all along!!

Anonymous Coward says:

I had no interest in Expendables #1. Didn’t watch it. So I certainly had no pushing desire to see #2 or #3.

Any time you put a bunch of well known actors into cameo shots, it isn’t about the theme of the movie. It’s about hoping you’ll spend the money to see your favorite actor. Since this is a movie with far too many well knowns, not many are going to have time to develop a character in the movie. Why would I go pay money for that? It’s not even worth wasting the bandwidth to download if I were inclined to watch it; which I am not.

Nothing less than a total lack of interest in this film is my guiding thoughts. It doesn’t even rank up there with ho-hum. I needed no guessing to figure out this was a crap movie and not to waste time nor money on it.

It’s been more interesting to see the antics Lionsgate has pulled trying to protect its’ precious.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Someone correct me if I am wrong but stuck somewhere in my mind is a statement from some hollywood type that the us market numbers were okay but the real money had been coming in from the international markets, brought on because they were releasing the things faster because piracy or something.

I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m sure there was something like that out there.

ECA (profile) says:


It wasnt that long ago, that the week-month before a major release Adverts would appear ALL OVER the place, from TV to news papers.

Las thing I saw was a year ago..
I dont have Cable, Broadcast TV, didnt show anything.

WHY is it that they are basing the Value a movie makes on 1 weekend?

I think it has been shown that MUCh of the money used to make Films, tends to disappear. Inflated Paychecks($1000 per day isnt bad) to Strange supply companies that disappear after the Publication.
Anyone think they could CUT losses y 1/2…Or is this just a scam to make more money with TONS of subcontractors that dont pay anything.

DannyB (profile) says:

Movie selection advice

When evaluating which movie to watch, consider this factor.

When the name of a movie ends in a number, usually, with few exceptions, it is going to suck.

Making cookie cutter movies out of the same basic idea is a perfect example of the lack of creativity in Hollywood. Similarly, comic book movies. Old TV remake movies.

But what do we NOT get? Hard sci-fi movies. Movies in space. Movies that have at least some respect for the laws of physics. Movies that aren’t full of plot holes.

It’s not that there aren’t people with new, novel ideas for a story. It’s just that the Hollywood system acts as a filter for those kinds of ideas.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:


I own the first ‘The Expendables’, illegally streamed the second (was still amusing, will probably buy if I run across the DVD and have spare change), and will probably do the same after Expendables 3 goes to DVD.

What can I say? Sometimes I just enjoy watching a few hours of mindless violence. Kinda annoyed got knocked down to PG-13, but whatever.

Don’t films like these usually have a mediocre box office performance and then hit the motherload with DVD sales anyway?

Not to mention the movie was competing against Guardians of the Galaxy, Bay’s incarnation of TMNT, and Let’s Be Cops, the latter two films being worse than Expendables 3, if we treat the Tomatometer Critics’ opinions as the gospel truth, so it feels to me like Hollywood’s just bitching about the movie being leaked more than anything else.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Sadly, they could have a point

Sadly, they could have a point.

I use a rule of thumb to judge in advance whether a movie is likely to be good: The intensity of advertising immediately prior to opening; with higher intensities corresponding to worse movies. I have speculated that the theory is this: If a movie sucks, then you must run a massive, “turn-their-brains-to-pudding” advertising campaign designed to ensure everyone sees it opening weekend. If it is a great movie, you hardly need to advertise it at all, because of all the word of mouth advertising you get.

So, if my theory is valid, then a pre-leak of a bad movie is seriously damaging to its first weekend take because everyone learns it is bad before the opening; the advertising doesn’t work. (Conversely, I’d expect pre-leaks to make good movie returns even better.)

The only question remaining is, did Expendables 3 advertising campaign qualify as a massive, “turn-their-brains-to-pudding”? I kind of think it did.

Yehuda Berlinger (profile) says:

Re: Sadly, they could have a point

Yep, exactly. A leaked movie DOES affect the box office earnings by dissuading the people who would only see the movie if they know nothing about it.

A good movie will always get attendees. A bad movie gets a spike until people know it’s bad. When the movie is leaked, that spike might not happen, because people already know it’s bad before opening night (otoh, people are still going to see TMNT).

What does it say when your business model relies on the ignorance of people to pay for your product before they know it’s bad?

Add to this the massive vapidity of the current movie industry built on wall-to-wall adaptations of kids novels, cartoons, and sequels. Maybe, just maybe because a type of movie worked well for about five or ten years, based on a few good ones and a lot of mediocre to bad ones, doesn’t mean that it’s going to forever. Maybe it’s time for Hollywood to change direction.

It’s Coke from the faucet all over again.


PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sadly, they could have a point

“A leaked movie DOES affect the box office earnings by dissuading the people who would only see the movie if they know nothing about it.”

Only if the movie’s bad, or even not necessarily then (see Wolverine). In actual fact, it could be argued that the free publicity gained as a result of a leak can be a positive gain.

Of course, some studios do depend on audience ignorance if they know they have a bad movie on their hands (think of movies that don’t have preview screenings for professional critics). They just can’t admit to shareholders that the reason they failed was because they delivered a bad product.

“A good movie will always get attendees. A bad movie gets a spike until people know it’s bad. When the movie is leaked, that spike might not happen, because people already know it’s bad before opening night (otoh, people are still going to see TMNT).”

Works both ways. There’s plenty of movies that have opened poorly but gained popularity as good word of mouth got around, becoming hits, even leading to successful sequels, etc. It’s just that this often happens after the initial theatrical run, as studios pull product before they’ve had a chance to gain momentum if they didn’t hit the ground running.

The problem with the modern industry is that they place too much stock in opening weekend rather than the quality of their product. It’s hard to see how this can change right now, as not only does the industry seem stuck in that mindset, but it’s hard to guarantee a quality movie all the time. Hopefully they will realise that they have to do more than throw money at effects and marketing to deliver something people actually want to see.

PaulT (profile) says:

I knew this would be the stance that was taken, depressingly predictable even if there may be some truth to it. Let’s get this out of the way – piracy *may* have had some effect on the lacklustre box office performance. In fact, I’ll accept that it definitely did for the sake of argument. But, it’s far from the only factor, and probably not the biggest one.

First off, it’s not just the “it sucked” part of the article above, but the overall production of the thing. To begin with, it’s the third movie in a series. As soon as something becomes a trilogy, the third part usually falls off compared to the second. Even Pirates Of The Carribean took a significant dive with the 3rd part. The reason is that not every film needs a sequel. If the second part sucks, or just disappoints, then less people return for the third. Now, this certainly isn’t always guaranteed, but despite the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, I know a lot of people who really disliked the second film. If you thought the second film sucked, would you be sitting there for the third on opening weekend? Yes, I know this happens with the Transformers series somehow, but I can think of numerous franchises where even the better films in the series underperformed because the previous entry sucked.

On top of that, there was the decision to go PG-13. This indicates to fans of the series that the violence they want in the film will be missing. The biggest complaint I’ve heard is that the film’s been toned down. This can lead to bigger audiences sometimes, but if you’ve built a franchise on an R rating you might just alienate the audience you already had while not attracting a new one. Not a formula for success.

Then, there’s the performance of movies related to, but outside of, the Expendables franchise. It’s not pretty. Stallone’s last 3 movies have underperformed, with Bullet To The Head being a notable flop. Schwarzenegger’s last 3 movies all opened at under $10 million domestically, with Sabotage being a total flop. Statham’s movies have also been very variable in their performance, his saving grace appearing to be the sheer number he pumps out rather than their individual quality. If the main pull of The Expendables is that these people appear together, but their own movies never break $25 million, why should the series continue to be a success when that gimmick wears thin?

Also, there’s competition and marketing. I have at least one friend who opted to go and see Guardians Of The Galaxy instead of Expendables 3, despite having been at the last two on opening weekend. The guy I’m thinking of hasn’t seen a pirated copy. The marketing didn’t do much for the film, far too jokey with the “OMG look at the names we have!” gimmick wearing very thin. Especially since the main additions seem to have been Harrison Ford (sorry dude, most of your recent films were terrible), recent ex-convict Wesley Snipes, anti-semite Mel Gibson and Kelsey Grammar (in an action movie for some reason?). Each actor has their niche and appeal, but is it really enough to carry a tired formula?

Finally, there’s what might perhaps be a hard truth – for many people, this franchise is not a summer blockbuster, watch on the big screen kind of franchise. It’s a throw it on, late at night, catch it while on Netflix or with friends and a beer kind of franchise. If piracy has harmed the movie, it’s because the studio’s business model dictates that this kind of viewing experience can’t happen until after a predetermined theatrical run. Perhaps it’s finally time to seriously reconsider that model. I, for one, will definitely be catching it on Netflix, as I did with the first two. Should that option not be available, I won’t be suddenly going to the cinema to see it, but I also won’t be pirating.

Now, this argument can (and probably will continue), but there’s a lot more to it than “it was piracy”. What a shame there still can’t be a real discussion, because studio heads need piracy as the scapegoat when they make bad moves.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh, one final thought: perhaps with the situation in Ferguson, presumably being broadcast 24/7 by every news channel from what I’ve seen – people just weren’t in the same kind of mood for realistic fictional violence as they usually are? There’s no way to prove it, but given that the top 3 films ahead of the Expendables were 2 sci-fi comic book adventures and an all-out comedy, maybe some people stayed away because they were witnessing crimes on TV, not committing them themselves?

Rick says:

Sequels are usually garbage

As the subject line suggests, most people who have seen more than a handful of movies in their lives know that sequels suck, especially the 3rd iteration of what was, at it’s very best, a weak and cheesy franchise. I didn’t need to even look at any advertising to know this would be a bomb. Any movie with a 3 in the title is destined to be a loser.

Enlightend says:

If it hadn't leaker

they could have gotten so much more revenue by no one knowing how much it sucked.

That’s the bottom line of all this shit the movie studios are trying to pull and are constantly whining about.

They hate movie reviewers they weren’t able to buy (aka, all those free peoples on the internet) and they hate not being able to screw people over by attempting to take everyones money on the opening weekend and then not bothering with anyone disappointed.

You know how to make good money from movies Hollywood?
By making good ones like Guardians.

Everyone I know that likes the genre already went and watch it at least twice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Once Again...Marketing.....

I live smack in the middle of the USA.

I don’t have cable.

I do most of my entertainment online.

The only place I even heard of that movie? On the Tonight Show, with Jimmy Fallon. 2 days before opening.

It’s summer. People make plans. You can’t do a pitiful marketing campaign at last minute and expect the numbers to come in.

It’s like I didn’t even know Robin Williams was in a movie released in May.

How about this, you dumbass marketing people. Put someone in the middle of the country. See if your campaign reaches out there.

If you don’t have Joe Blow in Farmersville, USA talking about your movie, show, product, whatever, it’s a failure in Marketing.

End of discussion.

GEMont (profile) says:

Pig in a poke.

Now now. They could be right you know.

Anyone who downloaded this turkey via p2p would certainly refuse to spend money on it afterwards and would likely tell all their friends it was a major flop as well.

The MPAA prefers you buy a “pig in a poke” and pay them for the privilege of learning that the movie sucks.

They hate that you can now watch a shitty tele-sinc or cam version of the flick, (sent in from Russia or China where the MPAA sends all its movies months before the American market to insure such copies are available), in order to decide if you want to spend the small fortune the MPAA demands for a DVD, or fork out the ridiculous price of a movie theater.

File Sharing (piracy needs boats and water) may indeed be hurting their sales of crap films.

Can’t say that I feel sorry for them though.
Dinosaurs need to learn new tricks or become fossils.

Bill Richardson says:

Expendables Anti-Gun Hypocrites

You guys missed one other reason that I and many others missed this movie… It was all over social media among gun rights supporters… Many just don’t go to movies anymore that star anti-gun hollywood elite hypocrites that think guns are ok for protecting them, but we can’t be trusted with them. Three of the stars in Expendables have made public statements about banning gun ownership in the US… I and many others are now voting with their dollars. I understand that moms against people protecting themselves with guns (or whatever that groups name is) won’t agree with me on this, but how many of them would have gone to an action shoot-em up flick anyway?

Get over it says:


They probably intentionally leaked the film so that they could have grounds for a lawsuit in order to have some piracy sites “removed” from the internet. Once production was wrapped, someone within Lionsgate probably watched the movie and realized how god awful it was, and knew that it was going to do poorly. But the money for production was already spent, there was no going back. So might as well throw a copy online and then blame piracy for the films shortcomings in theaters. I can also see motivation for whoever oversaw this project to want to keep their job after this movie flopped, so piracy gave them a perfect scapegoat.

Anonymous Coward says:

I was really looking forward to this movie and after I watched it I was horribly disappointed!I hate Antonio Banderas and his character was a complete asshole as I have a co-worker who is the same and he was just a fucking irritating!
Then to get that stupid bitch into the movie just to shut the gender equality idiots up was another pain in the ass!
Irrespective of what changes are happening in the world today,that sort of environment is not for females and faggots!
I really enjoyed the first two and purchased their dvd’s(legally!) and this one I don’t want even if it’s recorded on a pure gold disc!Keep it!It fucking sucks!

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