Weeks prior to its theatrical release this coming Friday, a DVD-quality rip of “The Expendables 3” found its way onto torrent sites and spread like wildfire.
As of today, over 2.2 million people have downloaded (and likely viewed) the illegal copy, and Lionsgate, the film’s distributor, isn’t taking the offence lightly.
On July 31, the studio filed a temporary restraining order against six illegal torrent sites and 10 “anonymous users” associated with those domains in an attempt to halt further distribution of the film. Lionsgate was granted its restraining order and US District Judge Margaret Morrow barred the accused websites (as well as “any third party”) from “taking any action that induces, causes or materially contributes to” the infringement of Lionsgate’s copyright.
The offending sites were ordered to stop “hosting, linking to, distributing, reproducing, performing, selling, offering for sale, making available for download, streaming or making any other use of any copy or copies” of the film. The temporary restraining order lasted until Friday August 8th and Lionsgate was granted a preliminary injunction that same day. Lionsgate ensures that an investigation of the leak is “ongoing” and says the copy of the film was obtained through “fraudulent or otherwise unlawful means.”
After the leak, entertainment blogs lit up with speculation over how the piracy would affect the film’s theatrical box office. While there are multiple studies that indicate piracy has a negative effect on revenue, proving this is a fool’s errand. There are just as many articles citing the exact opposite as being true.
There are an impossible number of factors to consider when looking at a movie’s box office. In addition to the obvious factors, like star power, brand recognizability, critical response, overall quality, and advertising, other seemingly unimportant factors like the weather in certain parts of the country, for example, do come into play.
There is so much variance here that any speculation as to how the leak will impact “The Expendables 3” box office is simply that — speculation.
Indie movie “Snowpiercer” was readily available for illegal download months prior to its domestic theatrical release this year, and the film still managed to thrive.
“Snowpiercer” may have been released in just eight theatres during its opening weekend, but its per theatre average was a staggering $US21,398. That gives “Snowpiercer,” a movie that barely managed to make $US4 million in the US theatrically, a per-theatre-average that sizes up to wildly succesful blockbusters like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” or Michael Bay’s latest assault on the senses, “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” This may seem like peanuts comparatively, but it’s an impressive feat given The Weinstein Company’s limited release strategy for the film.
David Pierce wrote a piece at The Verge in which he admitted to illegally watching “The Expendables 3” and came to the conclusion that the movie may do better because of the leak. He posits that the film begs to be seen on a big screen and the leak will only put more people in seats because it’s “fun” and moviegoers (according to a brief Twitter poll) prefer the theatrical experience. While I may not 100% agree with his logic, I do believe that the leak will not hurt the film in the long run.
After a workprint copy of 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” leaked online a full month prior to its release, the powers-that-be over at Twentieth Century Fox were rightfully up-in-arms and did their best to control the damage. Just as with “The Expendables 3” now, there were tons of online posts about the leak’s effect on its box office figures. However, the film wound up having one of the biggest opening weekends of the year (just over $US85 million) and topped out at just under $180 domestic.
The people who illegally download movies are not the general movie going public. There are plenty of exceptions, but for the most part, torrent users are opportunists who watch what they watch simply because it’s available and free. If “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” leaked early, it would get millions of downloads, too, and it would have little to no effect on its box-office intake, since the primary audience for that film skews slightly older among those who do not actively pirate movies.
The audience for “The Expendables 3” is broad enough that this admittedly major snafu shouldn’t hold much weight in the long run. Since the franchise has never delivered outstanding box-office numbers domestically (“The Expendables 2” made $US85 million stateside), the leak is all the more irrelevant.
Prepare for the onslaught of entertainment blog guesswork this weekend as “The Expendables 3” box-office figures start rolling in, and be sure to take it all with a grain of salt.
Analysts are expecting the film to open around $US23 million this weekend, and with a reported budget of $US90 million, it would need to do well internationally to turn a profit. Fortunately for Lionsgate, foreign markets made up 72% of the original film’s $US305 million box office intake and 62.4% of “The Expendables 2” slightly less impressive $US274 million.
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