An unfinished pirated version of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" that hit the Internet March 30, well before the film's No. 1 debut in theaters, has been downloaded some 4 million times, News Corp's. 20th Century Fox said Wednesday.
Whether such online attention hurt "Wolverine" at the box office is debatable, but Fox's assertion of 4 million is about four times greater than previous estimates.
At last year's average ticket price of $7.18, the piracy could conceivably -- though not likely -- have cost Fox $28.7 million.
"Piracy is a serious issue for us. We now estimate that there are above 4 million downloads of that stolen 'Wolverine' movie that was up there," News Corp. COO Peter Chernin told Wall Street analysts on Wednesday.
Chernin and chairman/CEO Rupert Murdoch were speaking on a conference call. A News Corp. spokeswoman later confirmed that the statistic was 4 million and not 1 million, the smaller number having been conventional wisdom for several days.
Chernin said on the call that many Internet sites illegally trading "Wolverine" have been shut down.
Piracy of intellectual property including movies, said Chernin, is "as big an act of industrial espionage, industrial sabotage, as we have seen in terms of its economic impact."Nevertheless, "Wolverine" scored a better opening weekend than any other movie this year.
Said Murdoch on the call Wednesday: "At Fox, we couldn't be happier with last weekend's $85 million opening of 'Wolverine.'"