Hugh Jackman isn't having a good day. The Internet is buzzing with news that a full-length version of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" has appeared online a full month before it's due in theaters.
But at least Hugh's not alone. While the big-budget franchise reboot is certainly the most substantial and high-profile to hit the Web, it's not the first. As studios and audiences have come to know, spoilers are a fact of movie life these days.
Until now, the most infamous leak came in 2003, when Universal's [movie id="342213"]"Hulk"[/movie] found its way onto the Internet two weeks before its release. The Ang Lee-directed film still managed to open with a $62 million weekend. A week later, though, it experienced a 70 percent box-office drop and went on to be a financial failure (which probably had less to do with the leak than with the film being poorly received by both critics and moviegoers).
The lesson learned from "Hulk" would appear to be that if your movie is good, spoilers don't matter. But 2003 was practically a technological lifetime ago. Web video was in its infancy, and widely used sharing sites like YouTube didn't even exist. The number of people with the equipment and know-how to view "Hulk" early pales in comparison to those who can now watch "Wolverine" with a just a few mouse clicks.
Inevitably, then, more and more films have become the targets of leaked footage, scripts or photos, including [movie id="302714"]"Iron Man,"[/movie] [movie id="333489"]"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,"[/movie] [movie id="338084"]"The Wolfman,"[/movie] [movie id="355798"]"Sex and the City,"[/movie] [movie id="295835"]"The Simpsons Movie"[/movie] and [movie id="340251"]"The Happening."[/movie] In 2005, eight people were charged with copyright-infringement offenses related to the leaking of [movie id="237059"]"Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith."[/movie] Oscar-nominated films consistently show up on the Internet, as screeners are distributed to Academy voters. Last spring, a bystander recorded footage of Jason Segel fighting Lou Ferrigno on the set of [movie id="375342"]"I Love You, Man"[/movie] (hardly a spoiler, but when even buddy comedies are under attack, you know the industry has a major problem on its hands).
Leaks haven't just been a tricky situation for the movie business. Photographed pages of [movie id="342213"]"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"[/movie] appeared days before that book's publication, and the details of two eye-popping endings of "Lost" season finales were spilled online. The winners of reality shows, which are sometimes taped months before they air, are routinely revealed early.
When it comes to movies, Internet spoilers have become such a problem that they might actually be changing films. A spoiler claiming to reveal the ending of May's [movie id="347265"]"Terminator Salvation"[/movie] appeared online last year, which reportedly prompted filmmakers to rethink the conclusion.
The "Wolverine" leak raises many questions. What, if anything, will be the impact on the film's box-office receipts? Have we just entered a new era in the history of spoilers in which any blockbuster — "Star Wars," "Transformers," "Terminator" — runs the risk of appearing on a computer screen before the big screen? And if that's the case, what is the implication for the future of mega-budget movies?
Check out everything we've got on "X-Men Origins: Wolverine."
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