Hugh Jackman’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine has leaked out onto the Web. Downloads via P2P are estimated to already be in the hundreds of thousands. The Hollywood blockbuster release model is becoming increasingly irrelevant because technology has moved beyond it.
The FBI is investigating the unauthorized distribution of the film and the studio claims that it is forensically marked so that it will be easier to identify who leaked it. That being said, what’s occurring now is damage control.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvWABCrH3b8
The PR spin is that the lack of certain CGI and sound effects will make the pirated version less attractive to the general public. The studio will insist that those who have watched the leaked movie will want to pay to see the final version in theaters. That’s wishful thinking. There will be lost ticket sales.
Is there a solution? As long as there is a market demand for pirated movies, books, songs, etc., blockbuster new content (like Harry Potter Book 7) will always be prone to leaking no matter the criminal and civil penalties faced by those who leak or download. The MPAA can lobby for stricter copyright infringement penalties but it will be of little consequence.
I predict that blockbuster “star” movies will decline in number because of the return on investment is too unpredictable with piracy plus there are more choices for online and offline entertainment. To hedge their bets, studios will produce smaller budget films with no-name actors (or strictly animation as CGI costs decrease). Promotional tie-ins through product placement will partially cover production costs…and to the extent star actors are involved, they’ll be asked to shoulder more of the risk of piracy through taking a greater portion of their compensation based on the box office rather than a nice up front flat fee.