Local Movie Theatres Under Attack?

The movie industry is fighting a battle far more complicated than it ever thought it would have to face from bootlegging. Some $900 million is said to be lost annually in the state of New York due to movie bootlegging. Up to $3 billion may be lost to movie piracy in total per year, when one factors in all of the losses that can result.

The industry faces some true hurdles in stopping bootlegging, in part because it can be done so easily; simply sneaking a camera into a movie theater. This cam, the resulting bootleg, allows many viewers to witness the film with only one ticket having been sold. As a result, many theaters have banned bags from being carried into the theater but with smaller sizes of cameras available, it is difficult to thwart. There are some theaters that have resorted to using night vision technology to spot bootleggers during screeners. Other times theater employees may themselves be the pirates, using the projectionist booth to record the movie as it plays. This can offer advantages, such as unobstructed views, modified frame rates and improved audio which can be connected directly from the monitor output.

Better quality recordings can be made using rips and screeners. Rips are typically recordings made from officially licensed media, such as DVDs, through the use of hardware and/or software. Rips can be produced with high quality and the method of recording the material is easy and quick. When studios and production companies release advance copies of a movie which ends up being copied, this is called a screener (SCR). DVD SCRs are sometimes released to the internet which may force a movie studio to revise or even cancel productions. A Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) decision to address the problem has been to issue strictly binding contracts to strengthen privacy and attempt to limit advance copies. Fines upwards of $150,000 per title have been served for the leaking of films.

The artists involved often express unhappiness that bootleggers are ruining their vision for a film and say the viewers are also being robbed of this by a lower quality product. This loss of full production (e.g., a black and white DVD cover) is one of the red flags that indicates a probably bootleg. The obvious sign of a bootlegged movie is seeing it for sale before the title has even been released to theaters. It should go without saying, but some people need it to be said: the absolute best way to experience the highest quality film is in a local theatre.

Not all bootleggers are strictly motivated by a financial interest. For instance, some movie studios (such as Disney), place moratoriums on releases, which limits DVD release sales for a set time. This is often an attempt to increase sales in a short period of time by increasing demand and superficially reducing the supply. This can create a certain amount of animosity toward the studio and result in people trying to find any copy-bootleg or not-of the affected title. Similarly, movies which were released in a limited quantity and those that have never been released on DVD also encourage bootleggers to make counterfeit copies available to desperate customers.

We all need to pitch in to stop these activities that are harming movie theaters. New Hampshire residents are asked to report suspicions of bootlegging by calling 1-800-NO COPYS (1-800-662-6797).