While millions of people will be heading to theaters on Friday to watch Sylvester Stallone’s team of action stars deliver its most exciting adventure yet, Lionsgate is facing off against the greatest super villain in movie history – online piracy. Two weeks ago, some dastardly scoundrel uploaded a “complete and nearly pristine” copy of The Expendables 3, according to the Wall Street Journal, and as of August 1, it was downloaded 2.2 million times. That such a leak could occur before the film has even been released in theaters means that we’re talking about an inside job, with either someone from the studio or a post-production company being responsible for what is expected to be a big hit at the box office.
That’s why Lionsgate is going for the throats and/or bank accounts of just about any websites that were involved with the spread of the “stolen” digital copy of the film. Deadline reported on Friday that the studio won a ruling that is going to show no mercy on at least six bit torrent sites and the people who run them. Sites like Billionuploads.com, Dotsemper.com, Hulkfile.eu, Limetorrents.com, Played.to, and Swantshare.com have already had their bank accounts frozen while this investigation continues, and Lionsgate has not only “widened its sphere of inquiry to some of the biggest tech companies in the world,” but the studio’s investigators are also actively looking for any other sites that are still hosting the stolen copy of The Expendables 3 under other names, like Totally Not The Expendables 3 and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot.
To top it all off, Lionsgate has subpoenaed, among other things, the personal information of the people who run the six aforementioned sites and any others that are discovered, because when you mess with The Expendables, you get expended or something.
“Through these subpoenas, Lions Gate may demand the production of electronically stored information and other documents and information that is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of Defendants’ identities and locations,” says the proposed order Lionsgate’s lawyers submitted on August 5.“This includes but is not limited to billing records, website content, server logs and correspondence with any one or more of Defendants.” (Via Deadline)
Some of the sites have already wisely removed The Expendables 3, but such obstacles have never stopped people from finding things on the Internet before. Regardless, seeing as The Expendables opened with $34 million in 2010 and The Expendables 2 opened with $28 million in 2012, and considering both films’ box office success was largely due to foreign ticket sales, Lionsgate is pretty concerned that piracy of this level could severely hurt The Expendables 3 this weekend. Experts claim that piracy can cost a movie up to 19 percent of its expected opening weekend take, which would take a lot of HGH money out of some people’s pockets.
The most recent case of notable movie piracy that this situation is drawing comparisons to is the 2009 leak of that unfinished copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine that allowed people to see what it looked like when Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber fought Deadpool in front of a green screen. However, even after seeing will.i.am and Taylor Kitsch act, fans still flocked to theaters on opening weekend to the tune of $85 million. Fox contends that at least 15 million copies of the Wolverine workprint were downloaded when all was said and done, but it is believed that The Expendables 3, reportedly in the hands of some people as early as July 15, has been considerably more popular.