It's Oscar piracy season, that time of the year where screeners of newly-released critical darlings are leaked online as DVD and Blu-Ray screeners are sent out around the world to Academy voters and secretly loaned to their friends and relatives.
Today, I got a tip that there was a very unusual watermark in the screener of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty that leaked online today. I dug it up, and sure enough, a very familiar name pops up in the first scene of the screener. I made a GIF of it:
Oh, Ellen! If the watermark's accurate, this screener belonged to Ellen DeGeneres. But was it actually an Oscar screener? Probably not.
The watermark shows that the screener was created on November 26, 2013. According to Ken Rudolph's Academy screener list, he received the Walter Mitty DVD screener via UPS on December 19.
That's a pretty huge gap, indicating that Ellen's screener wasn't for Oscar consideration, but instead given to her for review in advance of Ben Stiller's December 4 appearance on her show.
Of course, there's a chance, albeit small, that this watermark was added by someone besides 20th Century Fox — by someone trying to hide the identity of the actual source, maybe.
More likely, the watermark is accurate and Ellen's screener simply 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.
It's very common for screeners to leak, but rare for a celebrity's name to be identified as the source. In 2011, a screener copy of Super 8 leaked online with Howard Stern's name clearly watermarked on it. Stern vehemently denied leaking the film on air.
Curious to see if Ellen responds the same way.
As usual, I'll update my spreadsheet of Oscar screener piracy statistics as soon as the nominees are announced on the morning of January 16.