LOS ANGELES, June 9 (UPI) -- The lackluster box-office performance of MGM's "Soul Plane" may have been caused by runaway piracy, Daily Variety reported Wednesday.
The paper said the FBI is reportedly investigating the widespread availability of illegal, high-quality DVD and VHS copies among street vendors as early as April. FBI officials would not confirm or deny that report.
"Soul Plane" opened Memorial Day weekend, grossing $7 million.
Variety said bootleg DVDs and tapes of the movie had already been on the street for so long, it had become a running joke.
D.L. Hughley was on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" the night the movie opened to plug "Soul Plane," and Kimmel joked: "It looks like it's a funny movie. In fact, I should have seen it already because we've had this bootleg of 'Soul Plane' here for three weeks."
"Soul Plane" producer David Scott Rubin said the movie took a direct hit from pirates.
"We're the first movie that can demonstrate a direct relationship between digital piracy and box-office sales," said Rubin.
MGM would not discuss piracy, but "a confluence of factors" accounted for poor ticket sales.
"We had a low-budget movie that underperformed," said studio spokesman David Bloom.