Wolverine had some pretty sharp claws. In America, the opening weekend haul was bigger that even the most optimistic expectations, even my own: $87 million. International showings doubled the take to a grand total of $160 million. That was despite the worldwide malaise over swine flu that kept some people away from crowds. It was also despite tepid reviews nearly across the board.
But most mentionable is the fact that in a well-publicized episode in late March, an early version of the movie was leaked online. The studio proclaimed that the sky was falling and piracy was going to doom the flick. Producer and star Hugh Jackman couldn't evade questions about it, which bumped his abs out of the hierarchy of conversation topics on the big talk shows.
The Hollywood Reporter's legal blog estimated that even with the astonishing gross, the leak loss figured at about $7.18 million. But that assumes a lot. It assumes, for one, that every person who watched the leaked film didn't buy a ticket during opening weekend. My bet is that most of the leakers were comic book fans who were going to see the movie anyway, and probably did. Or they may even attend in another week to see how the final version compares. While I don't think the leak did zero damage, I also am extremely dubious of the studio's doomsday claims.
The truth is somewhere in the middle, or even at the low end of the spectrum, and yet I pay the price for Hollywood's anti-piracy campaign all the time.
Every time I buy or rent a DVD of a mainstream Hollywood movie, I'm bombarded by noisy, gritty warning propaganda (sleazy dark-alley deals, cop car sirens) about how terrible piracy is and how it's just like carjacking. Try to skip past that blaring guitar and those nausea-inducing jump cuts, or that accusatory FBI warning -- you can't. They've rigged the DVDs to force you to sit through it every single time you load the DVD, regardless of whether you legitimately purchased the disc. Frankly, my patience with these notices is now over. I'm not stealing your movies, Hollywood, and frankly, you haven't convinced me that anyone is in numbers that cause measurable damage.
It doesn't restore my faith in the Hollywood teeth-gnashers that Fox studio spokesman (and in turn, Hugh Jackman) were caught lying to the public about the nature of the leaked version of the movie. Whereas they told the press that the leaked movie was much different and at least 10 minutes shorter than the final version, in truth the movie that played this weekend was the same length and nearly identical. And yet Hollywood accuses me of being deceitful?
I encourage Hollywood to go after piracy in all the places where it has control over distribution -- with its post-production contractors (where Wolverine went astray) or inside cinemas (where street vendors tend to shoot with cameras). But not in my living room, where I did the right thing. If the studios can't figure out how to secure their films, perhaps they can at least give me the respect of figuring out a way to allow legitimate DVD buyers and renters to skip past those insulting and grossly over-dramatic pre-film warnings.
Or do I need to get my own claws out?
'Wolverine' opens big! So Hollywood, stop accusing us of stealing, OK?