In 2014, Sony Pictures was hacked – with several high-profile movies being leaked online weeks ahead of their official release.
Now, with Sony seemingly accidentally leaking one of their own films (uploading a whole movie to YouTube instead of just a trailer), we’ve decided to investigate the fates of some other high-profile movies which suffered after landing on illegal torrent sites.
The Hurt Locker (2009)
Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker was leaked an astonishing five months before its official release, thanks to a festival print falling into the hands of pirates.
The leak seemed to significantly impact on the film’s box office, which massively underperformed – making just $49 million at the worldwide box office, despite glowing reviews and a general high level of quality that led to eventual Oscar wins.
When an early Hulk workprint leaked, it was basically the worst possible scenario for director Ang Lee. With unfinished CGI work making it look like his take on the character involved a fairly significant canon change (removing Hulk’s purple pants to put his bare posterior on show), the film turned into a joke amongst fans, which worked against its serious tone when it was eventually released.
It was the start of a run of bad luck for the film – with disappointing box office, a cancelled franchise and a recast lead still to come.
The combination of David O Russell and Jennifer Lawrence had resulted in box office success before – American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook both performed well, going on to win Oscars – but Joy under performed by comparison, opening at third place when it was released in the states, going on to drop to ninth place a week later.
Piracy group Hive-CM8 was blamed for the film’s failure, after they took credit for a leak online just before the film’s release.
Expendables 3 (2014)
Lionsgate blamed a hugely disappointing opening weekend for the third Expendables movie on a high-quality leak which landed online a month before the film’s release.
Cynics blamed the quality of the film itself, particularly the unusual choice to tone down the violence for the last film in a trilogy known for its brutal action. Whatever the cause, the film took just $15 million on release.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
It’s not just the studios who are damaged by movie leaks. Sometimes, it’s the pirates who suffer.
When Gilberto Sanchez bought a bootleg copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine from a man on the street, before uploading a copy to the internet for his friends, he found himself at the centre of one of the most high-profile copyright cases yet – with 20th Century Fox working with the FBI to find and prosecute him for the crime.
Sachez was eventually sentenced to one year in federal prison for his actions.
“The federal prison sentence handed down in this case sends a strong message of deterrence to would-be Internet pirates,” U.S. attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a statement. “The Justice Department will pursue and prosecute persons who seek to steal the intellectual property of this nation.”
It’s not just the box office that can be damaged by movies leaking early, it’s the film’s chances of turning into a franchise. When Zombieland proved to be as successful on torrent sites as it was at the box office, writer Rhett Reese took to twitter to complain.
“Zombieland currently the most pirated movie on bit torrent. Over one million downloads and counting. Beyond depressing. This greatly affects the likelihood of a Zombieland 2.”
Nearly a decade years later, and a sequel has finally been announced – but that’s only following Reese’s huge successes with movies such as Deadpool and Deadpool 2, which have given him the cache to do what he wants.