The 'Expendables 3' opened up to a lackluster 4th place finish this weekend, when it should've dominated the box office. The New York Times speculates that the failure remains in large part to the version that was leaked online, 3 weeks earlier. They claim that if the movie received a viewing per download it would equal an additional $4 million in sales, which is nothing to sneeze at. However, this only brings 'Expendables' up from $16 million to $20 million, still losing with a 4th place finish to 'Lets Be Cops', which opened at an un-forecasted $26 million, with no A-listers, a small budget and less marketing. Regardless of the figures, the question remains as to how this film could've leaked so early?
Typically the case for a leaked movie is that someone gets ahold of a screener. Which is an advanced screening of a film sent to critics and award voters to get consideration and positive buzz. However, a comment by Calixte from the Critic Wire comment board makes two (2) valid and distinct points, suggesting this version is anything but what people are expecting.
Here's what Calixte writes:
If you actually worked in a legit post house, you'd know that 1) critics' screeners are watermarked, usually with their name, outlet, and e-mail,
He's correct. A screener often has no post-processing, like added surround sound or color correcting according to Wikipedia. In other words, what critics and award voters typically see is like looking at a magazine cover, without the photoshop. A screener is often tagged with the letters "DVDSCR", and often have an on-screen graphic watermarked with the receiver's email address as well. However, this version of 'Expendables' was truly in pristine condition, complete the way it was meant, as if we were watching a Blu-ray on our computer.
So who is responsible for this? CriticWire identifies the man who "pirated" the movie as David Pierce, a writer for the Verge. They use the word "pirated" in their title, which means to reproduce without permission, which is incorrect terminology when applied in this case. Pierce's original article, states that he merely "torrented" or downloaded the movie and then saw it in the theater to compare the two versions. He did not pirate it.
But in order to get closer to solve this mystery, one must take a look at the second point that Calixte says:
and 2) big-budget movies are never, ever shown to critics via screener. They are shown in a theater from a KDM-encrypted DCP.
KDM stands for Key Delivery Message and DCP is for Digital Cinema Package, or a digital version of film. A KDM is a special electronic key that contains a code which "unlocks" an encrypted film, according to Indie DCP, a company which specializes in this.
That's how critics saw The Expendables 3, and that's how they see most movies. Screeners are for small genre releases, indies, and arthouse titles, and almost all of them are time-locked digital streams.
These versions would've been password protected which only a small group would be given access to the code and due to it's functionality can only be viewed in a time period that's allotted.
The only place an unwatermarked, rippable pre-release screener could leak from is the production company itself. Critics don't leak; they don't have the opportunity to. It's studio interns you should watch out for.
Calixte raises the great point that a version like this can only come from the production company. Is it an intern who did this, or maybe a conniving executive trying to prove a point? The answer remains a mystery.