A DVD-quality copy of actioner “The Expendables 3,” starring Sylvester Stallone, has been downloaded via piracy sites more than 189,000 times over a 24-hour period — three weeks ahead of the U.S. premiere.
The leak of the film on the Internet ahead of its theatrical debut, an unusually rare occurrence, could dampen box office for “Expendables 3.” It’s also worth noting that the target demo for the movie is young males, who are the biggest users of illegal file-sharing services.
With 21 days left to go before the Aug. 15 premiere, the number of illegal downloads of “Expendables 3″ will certainly soar into the millions.
Lionsgate, which is distributing the movie, declined to comment. The original source of the pirated copy is unclear; user comments posted on piracy websites indicate the rip is genuine.
Pirated copies of “Expendables 3″ began cropping up on torrent-sharing sites Wednesday and downloads started to spike Thursday, according to data provided by piracy-analytics firm Excipio. As of 6 p.m. Eastern Thursday, the movie had been downloaded 189,052 times worldwide, with 42,216 of those in the U.S., according to Excipio. [UPDATE: As of Sunday, July 27, at 6 p.m. Eastern, Excipio had tracked 1.13 million illegal downloads of “Expendables 3″ worldwide.]
A similar a leak happened in 2009, when a rough cut of 20th Century Fox’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was shared on Megaupload.com about a month before the tentpole’s preem. Fox estimated that at least 15 million people downloaded the movie, and represented tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
The FBI in December 2009 arrested Bronx resident Gilberto Sanchez for illegally uploading “Wolverine,” and he was sentenced to a year in prison. Meanwhile, U.S. law enforcement officials in 2012 shut down Megaupload, and the MPAA has sued the defunct website seeking to collect monetary damages.
“Expendables 3″ ensemble cast includes Jason Statham, Antonio Banderas, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Kelsey Grammar, Terry Crews, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes and Harrison Ford.
The first two “Expendables” movies, both starring Stallone, were released in mid-August in 2010 and 2012 by Lionsgate. The first installment grossed $275 million worldwide and the second took in more than $300 million.
In 2011, “Expendables” producer Nu Image filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit targeting more than 23,000 individual BitTorrent users, whom it alleged had illegally downloaded copies of the first movie.