Fox on ‘Wolverine’ whopper: No fibbing involved

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When we last revisited the ‘X Men Origins: Wolverine’ Internet piracy boondoggle, Fox was trying to explain -- not especially successfully -- why studio Co-Chairman Tom Rothman had claimed earlier this month that 10 minutes were missing from the unfinished copy of the film that surfaced on the Internet when, in fact the finished version of the film appears to be exactly the same length as the pirated copy.

Bloggers were especially hard on the studio. Aint It Cool News scoffed at the studio’s ’10 minutes of the film are missing’ claim, saying Fox was simply trying to get people who’d seen the pirated version to pay to see the print that arrives in theaters all across the U.S. this Friday. (‘Wolverine’ was also due to open in Mexico this weekend, but its premiere has been postponed due to swine flu-related Mexican theater closings.)

Advertisement’s Hilary Lewis was even harder on the studio, saying it had been caught in a ‘lie’ that ‘weakens the trust audiences have in the studio and might lead to more people watching the pirated versions of Fox’s films.’

As I said in a previous post, I’m not sure the situation is that dire, since history has shown that most fans still want to see a movie with an audience of fellow devotees on the big screen.

But until now, Fox has never adequately explained how Rothman could say 10 minutes of footage were missing when the running times for the pirated version and the theatrical version were the same. At first, I got a bland non-denial. The studio simply said that the pirated workprint was ‘substantially different than the release version ... and is not remotely representative of the experience that moviegoers will have when the film is finally released theatrically.’

But this afternoon the studio was more forthcoming. Fox’s senior vice president of corporate communications, Chris Petrikin, who was out of the country on vacation -- in Mexico, of all places -- when bloggers started bashing Rothman last week, explains that he was probably the person who told Rothman that 10 minutes were missing from the pirated version of the film. He stressed that the studio was under enormous pressure after the piracy as it attempted to sift through a host of often wildly speculative Internet reports about the theft.

‘There was no ‘fibbing’ involved -- that would imply that we were so on top of things that we anticipated having one of our biggest films of the year stolen and had time to concoct a plan to purposefully ‘spin’ wrong information,’ Petrikin told me. ‘Remember, Tom gave this [Entertainment Weekly] interview a day after we learned of the theft. A lot of information and misinformation was flying back and forth then, and there was no way to sort it out quickly or definitively. In fact, I think I told Tom that there might be 10 minutes missing from the stolen version, based -- obviously -- on misinformation I was given or misinterpreted. The real issue is the scale of this crime and that the film was not finished when it was stolen.’