Did Sony Leak The Red-Band Trailer For ‘Dragon Tattoo’?

By J. Sperling Reich | May 30, 2011 7:59 pm PDT
[youtube width=”560″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kOFGI0p6SM[/youtube] Over the weekend the Internet lit up with news about a pirated version of the red-band trailer for the English language remake of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”. It wasn’t long before speculation arose that Sony Pictures, the distributor releasing the film, had actually planted the trailer on YouTube as part of a viral marketing campaign.

Adapted from the first novel in Steig Larsson’s best selling trilogy, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is being directed by David Fincher and is due to hit theatres worldwide before the end of the year. A Swedish adaptation of the novel was a worldwide hit when it was released in 2009.

The online appearance of the red-band trailer had movie bloggers frothing at the mouth for a number of reasons, including the popularity of the source material and Fincher’s stature as a modern day American auteur. But what really got their juices flowing was a growing conspiracy theory that Sony had purposefully leaked a trailer.

The Hollywood Reporter and Mashable were some of the many media outlets to point out a few inconsistencies:

  • While the trailer starts out looking as if it was captured secretly with a camcorder inside a dark movie theatre, after the first few seconds the off-center, shaky image becomes more steady and clear.
  • The quality of the audio is much better than traditional camcorder versions of pirated movies and the video can be viewed in HD.
  • The red-band trailer for “Dragon Tattoo” was only released in theatres internationally, however the online footage begins with the MPAA’s red-band advisory notice. This poses the question as to why international markets would show a an advisory from a U.S. ratings board.

My initial instinct was to dismiss all the conspiracy theories as click bait – you know, kind of like the headline of this post. Everyone working in the global exhibition and distribution industries is working diligently to squash camcorder piracy. Why would a Sony participate in a marketing effort that features such illegal activity, even if they were trying to implement a guerilla campaign. After all, this is the same studio that pats down members of the industry on their way into trade show screenings in search of camera phones. (In all fairness, all studios do that these days).

Then I began to doubt myself as the weekend came to an end and the video had not been taken off YouTube. Could it be that whoever is in charge of filing take down notices at Sony was off enjoying a long holiday weekend? Or was Sony really behind the “rogue” video, releasing it to U.S. audiences in a way that lent it some illicit curiosity factor to help build buzz, while at the same time giving them plausible deniability should anyone protest the flashes of blood and nudity.

If Sony truly is responsible for posting the red-band trailer of “Dragon Tattoo” online then their actions have had the desired effect. Outlets such as Deadline, Empire Online, Entertainment Weekly, First Showing, Hitfix, the Los Angeles Times and Vulture, along with 200 others, all covered the story. (I guess you can make that 201 now). The trailer has been watched over a million times on YouTube as of Monday evening at a rate of 20,000 views per hour. This may come as no surprise to Sony who learned just how much buzz can be generated by putting a trailer online when they posted the teaser for David Fincher’s last film, “The Social Network”.

So, what do you think? Did Sony surreptitiously post the red-band trailer of “Dragon Tattoo” online? Finally, does anyone know if MPAA advisory notices appear on trailers released in overseas markets?

J. Sperling Reich