As unauthorized footage from the upcoming movies Suicide Squad, X-Men: Apocalypse and Deadpool flooded the Internet following exclusive previews over the weekend at Comic-Con in San Diego, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox tried to stamp out the pirated sneak peeks. However, while both studios first insisted websites take down the footage, Warners ultimately reversed course, releasing its own authorized Suicide Squad trailer.
Although all three films — which were enthusiastically received at the massive fanboy convention — were generating plenty of excitement online, the flagrant piracy could also damage the standing of Comic-Con itself, making studios more cautious about hosting advance looks at exclusive footage if it’s going to immediately be leaked far and wide on the Internet. “Filmmakers are already nervous about showing this stuff so far in advance. You have to pry the footage out of their hands,” said one executive. “People are now going to be even more hesitant about showing anything but finished trailers.”
A number of studios did use Comic-Con to preview material that the studios themselves then immediately posted to the web. Disney and Lucasfilm, for example, offered up a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And Warners, after its panel in Comic-Con’s cavernous Hall H for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which is slated to open March 25, made a new trailer for the movie available online following its Comic-Con debut.
But the footage from the films in question was intended strictly to whet the appetite of the fans at the convention. In the cases of Apocalypse and Deadpool, effects were not finished, as both films are still in production. And, particularly in the case of Deadpool, the new superhero movie starring Ryan Reynolds, the hard-R dialog featured in the reel, if it is eventually incorporated into a future trailer, would require restrictive red-band treatment before it could be formally released by the studio. Plus, the pirated footage, presumably shot on cell phones from deep within the hall, didn’t allow the movies to put their best foot forward, instead offering up muffled audio and distant images captured from skewed angles.
Additionally, all three films are not slated for release until 2016. Suicide Squad, about a team-up of DC Comics villains with a sprawling cast that includes Will Smith and Jared Leto, isn’t due until Aug. 5, 2016, which is more than a year away. Warners, which employed a slow, teasing rollout for images from Batman v. Superman, planned to take a similar approach with Suicide Squad.
On Sunday, with the illegal postings of Suicide Squad footage proliferating, Sue Kroll, Warners‘ president of worldwide marketing and international distribution, issued a statement saying, “We have no plans currently to release the Suicide Squad footage that leaked from Hall H on Saturday. It’s unfortunate and ultimately damaging that one individual broke a long-standing trust we have enjoyed with our fans at the convention by posting early material, which, at this point, was not intended for a wider audience. We are still in production on Suicide Squad, and will have a big campaign launch in the future.”
Both studios did what they could to curtail the damage. Warners sent DMCA takedown notices to Vimeo and Google, citing sites like Digg.com and Gamespot.com. Fox took similar actions. But while some sites took down the footage, it continued to play on others well into Monday. “It’s like playing whack-a-mole,” lamented one insider.
Meanwhile, Comic-Con officials, not wanting to bite the hands that feed the convention, were contrite. David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations, issued a statement of his own, saying, “Clearly we are disappointed. This leak not only violates the trust of Comic-Con and the studios, but each of the attendees who respect the bond we have long held.”
By Monday afternoon, though, Warners reversed course. Suicide Squad director David Ayer first tweeted, “Shame our sneak peek Hall H footage was leaked. ?#notcool it’s unfair to the fans who waited in line. And not how I intended folks to see it.” But then, he followed up with a second tweet: “As we used to say in the ?#Navy stand-by to stand-by. We’re gonna make it right.”
With that, the studio officially released a Suicide Squad trailer, in a far better-looking and sounding version.
Said Kroll in a follow-up explanation, “Warner Bros. Pictures and our anti-piracy team have worked tirelessly over the last 48 hours to contain the Suicide Squad footage that was pirated from Hall H on Saturday. We have been unable to achieve that goal. Today we will release the same footage that has been illegally circulating on the web, in the form it was created and the high quality with which it was intended to be enjoyed. We regret this decision as it was our intention to keep the footage as a unique experience for the Comic-Con crowd, but we cannot continue to allow the film to be represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our presentation.”