A little less than two weeks before the biggest film of 2015 hits retail stores April 5, a Blu-ray Disc-quality version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has leaked online.
During the first 12 hours it’s been available on pirate sites, more than 250,000 people have shared a copy of the film, according to online piracy news site TorrentFreak.
Before the leak, The Force Awakens had been one of the very few 2015 mainstream films to avoid a disc-quality leak online, with The Walt Disney Co. foregoing a screener offering for journalists and awards voters.
In the weeks before Christmas last year, high-quality screeners of more than a dozen films — including Spectre, Bridge of Spies, Creed, and eventual Best Picture winner Spotlight — all appeared online, while the films were still in theaters. Both The Hateful Eight and Revenant were leaked before the films even opened on Christmas Day.
An online piracy group named Hive-CM8 took credit for many of the pirated releases, and after promising to release as many as 40 pirated films, the group backed off, even issuing an apology to Hateful Eight director Quentin Tarantino, reading: “We feel sorry for the trouble we caused by releasing that great movie before [the theatrical release] even has begun.”
Disney will release The Force Awakens as an early digital purchase and rental April 1, with some speculating that the small window between digital and disc releases was Disney’s way of thwarting would-be pirates.