Twentieth Century Fox announced Tuesday that an "incomplete and early version" of the latest installment in the billion dollar X-Men film franchise, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", starring Hugh Jackman, was stolen and posted online. The studio says it will pursue criminal charges against the posters, writing in a statement ,"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."
A studio source says that they are trying to remove the leaked material from the internet, but that they are not confident it can be removed. The studio has removed it from the site that first posted it, but it had been downloaded 10,000 times already and was being posted to other sites. The source sharing this insight chose to remain anonymous.
They stated, "It's not removed from the internet. It's still there."
Twentieth Century Fox insists the leaked version is worthless as its missing some of the sound effects and other post-production bells and whistles. States the studio, "It was without many effects, had missing and unedited scenes and temporary sound and music."
The studio is confident in can track the source of the leak, thanks to digital watermarking of its early copies. States a company spokesperson, "We forensically mark our content so we can identify sources that make it available or download it."
A FBI spokeswoman reported that the agency is "working with the studio and investigating the alleged online compromise of the movie."
The MPAA -- the Motion Picture Association of America and sister organization of the RIAA -- says that it is helping with the probe. An industry source says that the leak could hurt the film's financial success.
However, there's also growing rumors and speculation that the studio itself intentionally leaked the film to generate buzz or get feedback on the movie. Despite the vast popularity of Wolverine in the comic community, early test screenings of the film reportedly were unanimously negative -- in short, the film reportedly is set to bomb. This led to the studio going back to shooting more scenes, adding more screen time for Deadpool -- another comic fan-favorite. However, reports have it that later test screenings saw fans finding the portrayal of Deadpool to be insulting to the source material and poorly done.
With early prospects for the movie's critical reception both in the comic community and among general film audiences being quite poor, some say that the studio is using the leak as a trump card. That way, if the movie bombs, they can place the blame on the industry's favorite scapegoats for their shortcomings -- pirates.
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine" will be released in U.S. theaters on May 1.