UPDATE:

The following statement was sent to us by 20th Century Fox in response to yesterday's story:

"Last night, a stolen, incomplete and early version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was posted illegally on a website. It was without many effects, had missing and unedited 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 in the past. The FBI and the MPAA also are actively investigating this crime. We are encouraged by the support of fansites condemning this illegal posting and pointing out that such theft undermines the enormous efforts of the filmmakers and actors, and above all, hurts the fans of the film."

We appreciate their comment on the situation, and you can read the original story below.

* * *

Right now, everything you read about the financial situation in Hollywood is doom and gloom.  Studios are laying staff off.  Production companies are losing long-standing development deals.  Hedge funds are running for the hills.  DVDs are dying.  No one wants BluRay.  If you were to believe every negative thing written, the industry is seemingly days away from shutting down altogether.

Of course, that's not really the case.  But it's certainly what you'd think if you only listened to the worst of what's being reported.  One of the questions being asked over and over is "What is the real financial impact of piracy?"  And since piracy means different things on different films, that's a hard question to answer.

20th Century Fox is about to have an interesting practical test on one of their biggest summer films.  "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" leaked online today in what appears to be a near-finished DVD quality rip, marred only by a few unfinished FX shots.  As soon as files go up, they're coming right back down as Fox legal chases pirates around the web, but that toothpaste is out of the tube, gentlemen.  And that sucks.

[more after the jump]

If there's any big-budget movie that's been a whipping boy so far this year, it's "Wolverine."  There have been reports, both published and also off-the-record, about problems almost since the start of production.  I really like director Gavin Hood and his earlier film "Tsotsi," so I've been waiting, fingers crossed, hoping the bad buzz is just bad buzz, ignoring as much of it as possible.  For the film to be so close to release and then get kneecapped by a leak like this is insane.  It had to be someone inside the production.  I looked at a random three minute segment from the middle of the film this afternoon when first told it was online, and there's no timecode, no watermark... nothing.  It's a clean, perfect copy.  Someone did that on purpose.

So the question is this... will it hurt the film?  I imagine the file will be traded endlessly between now and opening weekend, and no doubt you'll start seeing reader reviews pop up at geek sites from people who "just happened to see the film."  And unless word of mouth is orgasmic, I'm guessing this takes a big bite out of that opening weekend.  The exact demographic who would open this movie is savvy enough to have the film on their hard-drives right now if they want it.  And if they hate what they see, I can't imagine they're going to pay to see it again when it opens.

I hate seeing this happen to anyone, and I take no joy seeing it happen to 20th Century Fox.  I think it's bad for the business overall.  I think it's obviously a personally-motivated leak, and Fox will no doubt come down like the wrath of Galactus on whoever did it.  But in the meantime, I put the question to you guys... what happens to "Wolverine"?  Will piracy be the one thing his healing factor can't handle?

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