'Hateful Eight' Pirated Screener Traced Back to Top Hollywood Executive (Exclusive)

'The Hateful Eight'
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

A copy mailed to Alcon Entertainment co-CEO Andrew Kosove was uploaded to file-sharing sites as the FBI probes a damaging leak of the Quentin Tarantino film. "I've never seen this DVD," Kosove tells THR. "It's never touched my hands."

A copy of the new Quentin Tarantino movie The Hateful Eight that leaked online earlier this week has been linked to a top Hollywood film executive, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.

Andrew Kosove, co-CEO of production-finance company Alcon Entertainment, was sent the “screener” copy of Hateful Eight for year-end awards consideration. That copy was signed for by an office assistant and later shared online, where it is now circulating on multiple file-sharing sites. Sources say officials with the FBI, working in conjunction with distributor The Weinstein Co., have been able to pinpoint Kosove's copy of the film as the source of the leak from a watermark on the DVD sent to him. FBI agents are visiting Alcon’s Century City headquarters Tuesday to determine the chain of custody of the DVD and who is responsible for its uploading. Alcon is cooperating fully in the investigation.

"I've never seen this DVD," Kosove tells THR in an interview. "It's never touched my hands. We're going to do more than cooperate with the FBI. We're going to conduct our own investigation to find out what happened."

Indeed, it is likely that Kosove is a victim in this leak rather than the perpetrator. Another employee at Alcon could have obtained and uploaded the DVD, or someone who either was given the screener or stole it could be responsible. Regardless, between 200,000 and 600,000 downloads of the film, depending on various reports, occurred the first day it was available online. Physical copies of Hateful Eight have been seen for sale on street corners in China and other markets.

According to a “Web Watch” report produced in response to the leak and shared with THR, an office assistant named "Tom" signed for the DVD at Alcon's offices. Later, a hacker or hackers identifying themselves as Hive-CM8 uploaded the Hateful Eight file after attempting to remove watermark technology from the DVD, which was manufactured by Deluxe. A message posted in a file-sharing chat room stated Hateful Eight was “one of 40” current movies that would be uploaded by Hive-CM8. “Will do all of them one after another … started with the hottest title of the year. Others will follow.”

Movie screeners are a Hollywood tradition during the annual awards season. It’s generally accepted that a distributor is all but required to send screeners to the voting members of the Academy, Screen Actors Guild and other awards bodies if a film hopes to garner nominations for Oscars, SAG Awards and other accolades.

But over the past decade, as file-sharing services have proliferated, screeners have leaked online with greater frequency. In 2003, the MPAA briefly banned studios from sending out screeners in response to the problem. That policy didn’t last, but in 2004, the Academy voted to expel member Carmine Caridi, a 70-year-old actor who appeared in The Godfather, after he admitted sending copies of movies in the awards race to a friend in Chicago. (Films that popped up online were traced back to Caridi's screeners.) Later, an Illinois man was arrested for allegedly duping Caridi into turning over his screeners; the man eventually pleaded guilty to copyright infringement.

In more recent years, screeners of several top movies have leaked online. The most damage can be caused to films that are not in general release when screeners are shared. Hateful Eight — a highly-anticipated $70 million Western starring Samuel L. Jackson and Kurt Russell, which opens in limited release Friday and goes wide Dec. 31 — falls into that category. So does The Revenant, another big-budget film whose screener leaked online earlier this week. That film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu, opens in limited release Friday and expands nationwide Jan. 8. It’s unclear if Kosove’s screener is the source of that leak as well.  

Alcon, the film financier and production company backed by FedEx founder Fred Smith, is perhaps best known for the 2009 smash The Blind Side. The company, which has distribution deal at Warner Bros, is run by Kosove (who was nominated for a best picture Oscar for producing Blind Side) and co-CEO Broderick Johnson.

Alcon’s latest movie, a $100 million remake of the 1991 Kathryn Bigelow action-thriller Point Break, is set to hit U.S. theaters on Friday. Kosove says he is "furious" at the leak of his DVD, which he says is a symbol of widespread online "theft" of films. "It's not an issue of just one movie," he says. "This is a threat to an entire industry."

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