A pirated copy of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” being distributed online was originally intended for Ellen DeGeneres. Representatives from her daytime talk show say that the leak was the first time in 11 years that such an issue occurred, and that they will investigate.
DVD versions of theatrical releases are often provided by film studios to talk show hosts before actors appear on a show to promote a film. Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are also given copies of films for review prior to the Oscars. Several of these copies, often referred to as screeners, end up being illegally distributed through file-sharing websites each year.
Film studios often watermark the discs in an attempt to thwart the distribution. The copy of the latest Ben Stiller film bears DeGeneres’ name along with a Nov. 26 date, sent by studio 20th Century Fox prior to Stiller’s Dec. 4 appearance on “Ellen.”
DeGeneres’ representatives told the Hollywood Reporter that they were “doing everything we can to find out” how the leak occurred “and to make sure it never happens again.” DeGeneres will host this year’s Oscars ceremony. Andy Baio, blogger and former CTO of fundraising website Kickstarter, noted in a post that the “Secret Life” screener probably ended up in the “wrong hands”:
A postal worker, one of her employees, friend, family member, or countless others in the production and distribution chain could be responsible for ripping the DVD and putting it online.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) began prohibiting the distribution of screeners in 2003, but lifted the ban later that year. In 2011, a “Super 8” screener leaked online bearing Howard Stern’s name, but the radio host denied on-air to leaking the film.
Follow Thomas Halleck on Twitter @tommylikey