Wolverine tops box office not despite of, but because of the leaked copy

X-Men Origins: Wolverine took $87 million for its opening weekend (from Friday), taking it straight to the number one movie at the box office.

Wolverine had the second-best opening of the four X-Men released so far, being beaten only by X-Men:The Last Stand which took $103 million on its opening weekend. Last Stand though had a distinct advantage, opening on Memorial Day in 2003, a traditional high yield opening time for movies.

Variety reports that Wolverine’s opening take “came despite a working copy of the movie being pirated a month before the film’s opening. [Fox] isn’t sure how much the piracy ate into the box office, but some insiders suggest it could be as much as $20 million.”

So despite having the second biggest opening in the X-Men series, and the biggest for a non-memorial day release in the franchise, the industry seriously believes that the leaked copy that hit P2P networks one month ago could have cost the movie $20 million? What absolute rubbish.

Here’s a movie that doesn’t include all the X-Men stars (it’s a prequel spinoff), that wasn’t released at the best time to maximize revenue, and yet it opens better than nearly all the X-Men movies before it. Wouldn’t the opposite then be true? That is, the publicity the movie gained through the leaked copy would have increased exposure to the movie, and therefore the box office take? And let’s not forget that the leaked copy wasn’t the completed movie either, so fans would have had a real reason to see the completed version, having seen the incomplete version.

Lets looks at some stats. “Wolverine pirated” delivers a staggering 1.42 million results in Google despite only now being released. That’s 1.42million mentions of the pirated copy that wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been pirated. X-Men Origins: Wolverine delivers 4.9 million results despite only being released this weekend. Paul Blart: Mall Cop has 3.5 million results despite being a number one at the box office months ago. Like it or not, the pirated copy of Wolverine drove a lot of attention to the movie, and that attention helped result in…. a number one at the box office, and the second biggest take in the X-Men franchise.

The small amount lost in piracy upfront (if any amount at all, because a loss presumes that the viewer would have paid to see it to begin with), would be more than outweighed by the extra viewers delivered by the massive publicity due to the pirated copy. There is no possible counter argument to not valuing the publicity in this case, and that the movie industry attempts to ignore it simply shows how disengenous their arguments are.