The leak was not unexpected; the film opened today internationally and most major motion pictures have handheld-camera-filmed bootlegs appear online within a day or so of their official release, but it is somewhat surprising that someone managed to film it during packed midnight screenings last night.
The after-credits sequence, featuring a familiar face from the Marvel Universe, is presumably setting the stage for the Captain America, Thor and Iron Man sequels as well as possibly Guardians of the Galaxy and the presumptive-but-unannounced Avengers 2 as well. The scene is reportedly not attached to the bootleg copies currently circulating the Internet but there are a handful of different people who have uploaded versions of that teaser scene to YouTube independent of the bootleggers trafficking in the full film.
Last year, a pirate was sentenced to a year in federal prison for uploading a workprint copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine before its release date in 2009. Fox, who distributed that film, claimed that the movie’s box office take was adversely affected by the leak and by poor reviews the unfinished copy received online. Fans and many box office experts were skeptical of that claim after the movie went on to gross $180 million in spite of bad reviews and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 37%.
The Avengers, of course, is expected to make nearly that much in its opening weekend alone in the U.S., and is widely expected to take the year’s #1 or #2 spot at the overall box office, with Fandango reporting that it’s the most anticipated movie of the summer.
The Motion Picture Association of America estimated in 2005 that the film industry loses roughly $3 billion per year due to piracy.