week, in overly excited response to the rumor that the gi-normous government warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark had been recreated on the Downey Studios lot, I made the following offer:

"While there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to get past the throng of security guarding this set to snap a picture, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get arrested trying. So I offer this reward: anyone who provides me with a clear image of the warehouse set will win a shitty VHS copy of Ferdinando Baldi’s 1983 epic, Treasure of the Four Crowns. That’s got to be worth a night in the clink."

Okay. Newsflash for the lunatic(s) who broke into the Indana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull production office on the Paramount lot and stole somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 – 3,000 primo production stills: I WAS JOKING. First off, immediately after dangling this reward, I searched Treasure of the Four Crowns at Amazon and was shocked to learn that a "shitty VHS copy" would run me an unacceptable $25.00. While I might shell out that kind of coin for a CD of Ennio Morricone’s score from Treasure of the Four Crowns, the only way I’d splurge for a cropped-and-blurred videotape of the actual movie is if the thief were to produce… eh, I’m already in enough trouble.

All kidding aside, this is pretty goddamn serious. It’s also an act of legendary stupidity. I mean, did the burglar figure Paramount would roll over and say, "Oh, darn, they got us again!" when the images turned up on one of our competitors’ websites (as you know, CHUD isn’t in the Indy 4 spoiler business)? Did they honestly think that Paramount wouldn’t press charges against anyone who ran the purloined images? This is the same studio that, earlier this year, shut down IESB over the publishing of "spy footage" from the Iron Man set. That was mere frivolity. This is actual theft!

For weeks now, I’ve been hearing that the studios were exploring their legal options with regards to the leaking of screenplay details via movie news websites, so the timing of this break-in is incredibly inauspicious – particularly when you factor in today’s mutual Hulk spoilergasm courtesy of Latino Review and IESB. Unless they can prove that money is changing hands to obtain this information, I don’t think the studios have much of a case. But if they wanted to make life miserable for one or all of us in this big geek fraternity, this might be all the provocation they require.

So stay tuned. And don’t even think of emailing me anything related to Indiana Jones 4 or Treasure of the Four Crowns! It ain’t funny anymore.

Update 10:55 PM PST: While I was over at the WB lot enduring Michael Clayton, IESB‘s Robert Sanchez landed the big scoop. Turns out there was one thief, and he was apprehended this afternoon at The Standard (Nick’s favorite hotel in all of Hollywood) via a sting operation that involved a member of the online press. That must’ve been fun.

The most intriguing part of Sanchez’s still-developing story, though, is the possibility that the truly loathesome might’ve "obtained" some of the stolen goods, which, aside from the stills, also included the full budget breakdown. The script may have been in the mix, too, but the full budget is far more sensitive, as that includes all the extra expenditures they try to hide when the studio tries to claim they actually made money on the film. Budgets are the grail. It’d be a big story if a journalist landed a budget for The Game Plan. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a whole other ball game.

And, by the way, if any money exchanged hands in the obtainin’, is so very done. And when you factor in that is owned by Time Warner… well, this could get very interesting.