Photo via Williamlucas.com

A DVD quality version of the action film; The Expendables 3, starring Sylvester Stallone, has been leaked onto various torrent sites three weeks ahead of the premiere, on August 15th. Lionsgate, which is distributing the movie, has declined to comment on the incident.

The film’s cast includes Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lumdgren, Kelsey Grammar, Terry Crews, Mel Gibson, Welsey Snipes, and Harrison Ford.

The first film, released in the summer of 2010, made $275 million worldwide; while the second movie, released in 2012, grossed more than $300 million.

What Happened?

Pirated copies of The Expendables 3 started appearing on torrent-sharing sites on Wednesday, August 16th, with downloads spiking the next day. As of 6PM on Thursday, the film had been downloaded 189,052 times worldwide, with 42,216 of those in the US. The latest number, as of July 27th, The Expendables 3 had been downloaded 1.13 million times worldwide (stats provided by piracy-analytics firm; Excipio).

A similar incident happened in 2009, when a rough cut version (lacking any special effects scenes) of 20th Century Fox’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine was leaked on Megaupload.com a month before it was to debut. The number of downloads was at least 15 million people, which Fox estimated as tens of millions of dollars lost in revenue.

This resulted in the FBI tracking down a Bronx resident in December, 2009. Gilberto Sanchez was found guilty of the illegal upload of the film and sentenced to a year in prison. Then, in 2012, US officials forced Megaupload to shut down, with the MPAA suing the website to collect monetary damages.

The Expendables has known its share of conflict with torrent sites. In 2011; the producer, Nu Image, filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against more than 23,000 individual BitTorrent users, who it accused of illegally downloading copies of the first movie.

Whodunnit?

Apparently some believe (like RARBG.com and Torrentfreak.com) that this all started on 4chan on July 15th. There is a public thread that is supposed to be discussing how to release a pirated copy of a film that is “too hot” to be identified, though no title is mentioned by the original poster, Torrentfreak claims to have a source that assures them “that the chat does indeed refer to The Expendables 3.” TF go on to mention that their source states, “We know that the leak was back then, around July 15, but everyone was scared to leak it. Most private groups had it for more than 10 days, but again they were scared to leak it.”

Less than 2 hours later, the original poster was back with this update:

What Does This Mean For The Expendables 3 Box Office?

Since the leak occurred before The Expendables 3 theatrical debut, it could seriously kill the box office sales, especially since the number of downloads are only going to increase as the date of the premiere nears.

A pre-release leak always has a harmful effect on box office sales, according to a study done by Carnegie Mellon University. According to the study, movies that see a copy leaked before their theatrical debut will have 19% lower box office sales compared to films that are only uploaded after the release. The study examined 533 movies that had been released between February of 2006 and December of 2008. 52 of the movies had been subject to pre-release leaks, like Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, The Avengers, and Ratatouille. The researchers did mentioned that their study was based on data more than three years old and relied on self reported user data from a single website, VCDQ.com.