So, in the wake of the much-discussed and widely downloaded leak of the Wolverine workprint, the direct-to-DVD BSG prequel pilot Caprica has also found its way online over a week prior to any official release (on DVD or via direct download). Yet, while media corporations decry the sales supposedly lost and the evils of piracy, any real evidence that these leaks will hurt either the film or the prequel series pilot is hard to come by.
The Wolverine workprint is an unusual case, as the leaked version is unfinished – while it is feature length, many of the special effects shots are either absent or only partial and a series of pick-ups shot earlier this year are missing. While one Fox reviewer got the boot after admitting downloading, watching and liking the workprint, some reports suggest that the leak has actually worked as great publicity amongst the key demographics most likely to see Wolverine in theatres. More importantly, in my view, this unfinished and thus can-be-improved-upon version may just lead some people to review the film more favourably – while folks won’t admit seeing the workprint, if the official release is better, and reviewers’ expectations were lowered by the workprint, I’d guess they’re going to give relieved and thus warmer reviews. More to the point, the workprint might also function as the most in-depth audience screener ever, which has resulting not just in mixed reviews, but in useful advice on how the film might be improved. A canny producer might just collate these suggestions and get some free tips on what the film-going public would really like to see in Wolverine!
Caprica is a different beast altogether – anyone who believes that any distribution of the Battlestar Galactica prequel series pilot will hurt its sales of the series are fooling themselves. It has long been argued that the US release of Battlestar Galactica was aided by the enthusiastic word-of-mouth generated by peer to peer sharing of the first episodes when they were released in the UK before the US. The direct-to-DVD pilot (no, it’s not a movie any more than Razor made sense as a standalone movie; it’s clearly a pilot) is there to do one thing: get audiences interested in the coming series. The DVD release is happening primarily because of the success of Battlestar Galactica, and the desire of BSG’s fans for something new in that franchise, albeit a very different sort of show from BSG. From the studio’s perspective, it’ll also help gauge the level of audience interest. Yet Caprica is, more than anything else, an advertisement for the coming series. The fact that the Caprica pilot DVD will clearly make money (it was 22 on Amazon’s best selling DVD chart today, for example) is candy, and perhaps one way the producers could get a special-effects heavy pilot created, but this is definitely an addition to the normal process of shooting a television pilot. Sharing the pilot on bittorrent will produce another metric by which the studio can see how popular the coming series will be. That word of mouth (presuming it’s positive) will be amongst the best advertisements Caprica can have.
Update: The workprint leak clearly didn’t hurt X-Men Origins: Wolverine: it clocked an impressive $AU221 million globally during its opening weekend!