Did Piracy Help X-Men Origins: Wolverine?


Going a bit against the grain when it comes to piracy discussions, Reid Rosefelt over at the Speedcine blog makes an interesting case why Wolverine’s unprecedented leak may have actually helped the film. Rosefelt compares the film’s $85 million opening weekend gross against other major release openings throughout 2009, and shows that it actually doesn’t stack up too badly.

Rosefelt points to a THR post that speculated on how much Wolverine may have lost in its opening weekend as a comparison for his data. Of course, it’s impossible to tell how much Wolverine may have lost due to piracy. But it’s also similarly difficult to tell how much piracy may have helped the film, should that be the case.

The following chart compares Wolverine to other major release openings in 2009:

Film Opening (millions) Theatres
The Twilight Saga: New Moon $142.8 4124
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $108.9 4293
Wolverine $85 4099
Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince $77.8 4325
Avatar $77 3456
Star Trek $75.2 3849
Fast and Furious $70.9 3461
Up $68.1 3766
Monsters Vs. Aliens $59.3 4104
Watchmen $55.2 3611
GI Joe $54.7 4007
Night at the Museum 2 $54.2 4096

While the film didn’t do as well as the Transformers sequel, and Twilight: New Moon — it still managed to best Avatar , Star Trek and Harry Potter.  He also points to other prominent sequel openings like Terminator Salvation ($42.5 million) and Angels and Demons ($46 million), which made even less than the above.

That Wolverine opened to higher numbers than the likes of Star Trek and Harry Potter is perhaps the most significant aspect of this comparison. Both were being marketed strongly by their studios, and from my own anecdotal experience, it seemed like many mainstream viewers were looking forward to those films much more than Wolverine. There was little doubt that Transformers and Twilight would open strong, but it seems that Wolverine’s ranking right below them is something of an achievement.

Rosefelt also notes that despite being the only movie on that table to have a pirated version out well before it’s release, Wolverine barely made Torrentfreak’s list of the top ten most pirated movies in 2009. It only ranked 9th on that list — above it was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen at the second spot, Twilight at the fifth, and Star Trek at the top.

Ultimately, this comparison does little to proving anything conclusive about the impact of piracy on Wolverine, but its unusually high opening does seem to point to certain interpretations where it may have actually helped.

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