Tag Archives: MPAA

Smartphones Are Killing the Cinema Experience

TCL Chinese

Last week a man got maced in the face for asking a fellow patron in a cinema to turn off their smartphone during the screening of a film. What is shocking is not that the attacker was a woman, or that it happened during a screening of an art-house film, or that the woman was escorted off the premises rather than arrested.

No, the single most shocking thing is the defending silence from the cinema industry in the face of such an attack. Not only have no lessons be learned since the fatal shooting earlier this year over an argument over smartphone use in the cinema, but there appears to be no willingness to tackle this issue.

The use of smartphones in cinemas is killing the cinema-going experience more effectively than camcorder piracy. Let me repeat: smartphones use in cinemas is killing the cinema-going experience more effectively than camcorder piracy.

If it is not tackled it will contribute to the further decline of cinema attendance. There is an urgent need for concerted industry action. Sadly, there appears to be a lack of leadership and willingness to challenge prevailing social norms.

An Attack at the Epicentre of Films

The attack itself took place in the heart of Hollywood, at a screening of a film considered an awards contender at an iconic cinema located just a block away from the Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) where the Oscar statuettes will be handed out in a few short months.

The man was at an American Film Institute screening of Mr. Turner when he asked a woman to stop using her cell phone, an eyewitness told Mashable. After asking several times, he tapped the woman on her shoulder. The woman had a violent reaction to the shoulder tapping, and stood up, turned on her phone’s flashlight app, screamed at the man and threatened to call the police.

People asked her to turn off the phone, but she began going through her bag and produced a bottle of mace. She used the mace on the man, who left the theater with a companion. The woman continued to watch the movie, which never stopped playing, until security escorted her out about 20 minutes later.  LINK

It boggles the mind that the alleged attacker would sit down to continue enjoying the film after she had temporarily blinded a fellow cinema goer.

But more troubling is that the management in the cinema apparently did not see fit to call the police or escalate the matter, but simply escorted the woman off the premise. No word on whether she was refunded the cost of her ticket on her way out.

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New MPAA and NATO Wearables Policy Is As Much About Social Norms As It Is About Piracy

Sergey Brin Wearing Google Glass

Google’s Sergey Brin shows off Google Glass

In his classic 1835 treatise on American society, Democracy In America, french historian Alexis de Tocqueville wrote “Laws are always unstable unless they are founded on the manners of a nation; and manners are the only durable and resisting power in a people.”

This passage sprang to mind as I read the anti-theft policy update issued jointly on October 29th by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). The new policy focuses on wearable devices like smart watches and Google Glass, the latter being an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that attaches to prescription or custom eyewear. Many of these devices are equipped with a camera and thus the reason the MPAA and NATO felt obliged to revise the policy. Their statement read as follows:

The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) have a long history of welcoming technological advances and recognize the strong consumer interest in smart phones and wearable “intelligent” devices. As part of our continued efforts to ensure movies are not recorded in theaters, however, we maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward using any recording device while movies are being shown. As has been our long-standing policy, all phones must be silenced and other recording devices, including wearable devices, must be turned off and put away at show time. Individuals who fail or refuse to put the recording devices away may be asked to leave. If theater managers have indications that illegal recording activity is taking place, they will alert law enforcement authorities when appropriate, who will determine what further action should be taken.

The two organizations already had a standing policy against the use of mobile phones in theatres. It is simply being extended now to encompass wearable devices. You might even say the decision was a “no-brainer” accept for the confusion that might occur in reference to the cinema patron who decides to use “no brain” by wearing such a device into an auditorium in the first place.

Unfortunately people do indeed wear electronic devices into cinemas as was demonstrated in January when a moviegoer in Columbus, Ohio was detained by federal authorities for wearing Google Glass during a showing of “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”. The incident occurred when alert theatre personnel at the AMC Easton 30 noticed a patron wearing the “recording device” during the screening and contacted the MPAA, who in turn notified the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees movie theft.

Much in the way there were recently fuzzy policies and procedures on how to treat Ebola patients in the United States, there were no guidelines back in January for cinema operators on how to handle patrons with wearable devices such as Google Glass. It took the trade organizations a notably long time to update their anti-theft policy afterwards, however this may have more to do with the MPAA’s working relationship with Google and their desire to maintain it.

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“Sin City” Poster Too Graphic For MPAA’s Advertising Administration

Eva Green Sin City Poster

Every so often an incident occurs that serves to remind us just how many tasks need to be completed in the workflow leading up to the release of a motion picture. Tasks such as running your marketing material past the proper trade groups for approval.

Yesterday I took note that my never-ending Twitter feed was populated by numerous uploads of the same image. Over the course of a few hours the image popped up in tweets from industry professionals I follow on Twitter a dozen or more times. The picture featuring a scantily clad woman was hard to avoid noticing as it scrolled by in Twitter’s desktop app time and again. As it turns out, the picture was actually one of the posters (pictured here) for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, which according to Deadline, had been rejected by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

In case you weren’t aware, or had forgotten, the Advertising Administration of the MPAA must review all the collateral marketing material used to spread the word (i.e. advertise) any film that has been or will be rated by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). Or in the MPAA’s own words, the Advertising Administration must review:

“…any material in any medium that is intended primarily to promote the exhibition, performance or sale of copies of the motion picture to the public and that is directed primarily to or for which a significant number of viewers are consumers in the United States.”

This includes a list of materials such as trailers, clips and footage, press kits, radio spots, Internet banner ads, billboards and, naturally, posters. And that’s just a fraction of a very long list. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), the MPAA reviews “more than 60,000 pieces of marketing each year”.

So while most of us are zapping through commercials on our DVR and ignoring banner ads on our favorite websites, there is someone at the MPAA whose job it is to pay very close attention to movie marketing material. In regards to the material for “Sin City: A Dame To Kill For”, the MPAA nixed a risqué poster depicting actress Eva Green shown in a sheer white dress that reveals just enough, though apparently too much, of what lies beneath. According to Deadline (and several other outlets) the MPAA’s approval was withheld “for nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown.”

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MPAA Agent Bob Hope Detains Man For Wearing Google Glass in Ohio Cinema

Sergei Brin with Google Glass

Not the man accosted by the FBI.

It was only two weeks ago that we predicted the day would come when people would be wearing Google Glass in cinemas and be able to record an entire movie. That future has already arrived sooner than we expected.

Over the weekend of January 18th an un-named man went to see “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” in Columbia, Ohio and ended up feeling the full wrath of the law for appearing to ignore the FBI warning that says making an illegal recording of a film is a crime. The man wrote a first-person account in The Gadgeteer about what happened:

I went to AMC (Easton Mall, Columbus, OH) to watch a movie with my wife (non- Google Glass user). It is the theater we go to every week, so it has probably been the third time I’ve been there wearing Google Glass, and the AMC employees (guy tearing tickets at the entrance, girl at the concession stand) have asked me about Glass in the past and I have told them how awesome Glass is with every occasion.

Because I don’t want Glass to distract me during the movie, I turn them off (but since my prescription lenses are on the frame, I still wear them). About an hour into the movie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), a guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says “follow me outside immediately”. It was quite embarrassing and outside of the theater there were about 5-10 cops and mall cops. Since I didn’t catch his name in the dark of the theater, I asked to see his badge again and I asked what was the problem and I asked for my Glass back. The response was “you see all these cops you know we are legit, we are with the ‘federal service’ and you have been caught illegally taping the movie”.

He tried to explain that the Google Glass had been turned off and that he needed the prescription glasses to watch the film. This did not seem to impress the officials, who further confiscated his work and personal phones, as well as his wallet. After 20-30 minutes of questioning outside the cinema he was promptly hauled off and taken in for questioning at the mall’s security room.

What followed was over an hour of the “feds” telling me I am not under arrest, and that this is a “voluntary interview”, but if I choose not to cooperate bad things may happen to me (is it legal for authorities to threaten people like that?). I kept telling them that Glass has a USB port and not only did I allow them, I actually insist they connect to it and see that there was nothing but personal photos with my wife and my dog on it. I also insisted they look at my phone too and clear things out, but they wanted to talk first. They wanted to know who I am, where I live, where I work, how much I’m making, how many computers I have at home, why am I recording the movie, who am I going to give the recording to, why don’t I just give up the guy up the chain, ’cause they are not interested in me. Over and over and over again.

Eventually they brought in a laptop and USB cable, telling the man that this was his final chance to ‘come clean’. After he insisted that he had done nothing wrong, they plugged in the computer, downloaded and went through the photos and five minutes later realized that there was no Jack Ryan recorded on the new fangled device; one which would not have looked out of place in Q’s gadget lab in a James Bond movie.

I asked why didn’t they just take those five minutes at the beginning of the interrogation and they just left the room. A guy who claimed his name is Bob Hope (he gave me his business card) came in the room, and said he was with the Movie Association and they have problems with piracy at that specific theater and that specific movie. He gave me two free movie passes “so I can see the movie again”. I asked if they thought my Google Glass was such a big piracy machine, why didn’t they ask me not to wear them in the theater? I would have probably sat five or six rows closer to the screen (as I didn’t have any other pair of prescription glasses with me) and none of this would have happened. All he said was AMC called him, and he called the FBI and “here are two more passes for my troubles”. I would have been fine with “I’m sorry this happened, please accept our apologies”. Four free passes just infuriated me.

Interesting to note that digital cinema watermarking on pirated films had obviously flagged up previous instances of piracy, which is why the authorities must have responded as quickly as they did in this instance. And by ‘Movie Association’ does he mean the MPAA? It would seem so.

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Third Time May Be The Ticket For MoviePass Unlimited Moviegoing Subscription

MoviePass Card

Over a year after MoviePass failed to launch its all-you-can-view subscription movie service, the company is back with a retooled offering that has a much better shot at surviving the inevitable pushback by cinema chains and studios.

You might recall last June MoviePass announced a private beta with 21 theatres in San Francisco that would allow subscribers paying USD $50 per month to watch an unlimited number of films in cinemas. In effect, the idea was to bring the Netflix business model to movie theatres. The companies plans were shelved however when theatre chains such as AMC and Landmark said they had no intention of working with MoviePass.

By July 2011 MoviePass had teamed up with Hollywood Movie Money to offer its members a similar service, provided they dealt with the inconvenience of printing vouchers at home which could then be redeemed at cinemas. Theatres would in turn be paid for each ticket, in-full, with MoviePass swallowing any price difference. At best, this was a cumbersome process which did not seam ideal for wide adoption.

MoviePass has since parted ways with Hollywood Movie Money, dumped its voucher scheme and earlier this week made public its latest unlimited viewing subscription model. This time, MoviePass may have come up with a system that cinema owners and studios won’t balk at and its customers will find more attractive.

Now, members pay between USD $19.99 and USD $34.99 per month and can watch up to one movie in theatres per day. The subscription price is determined on where a member lives. MoviePass has created three zones; those living in areas where ticket prices average less than USD $10 will pay USD $19.99 per month, whereas in high density markets such as New York or Los Angeles, where ticket prices average USD $14, members will pay at the USD $34.99 level.

Rather than having to print out a voucher beforehand, subscribers can use an iPhone app to log into any theatre throughout the United States, select a movie and showtime and then use a special MoviePass debit card to pay for a ticket. The process has two main caveats in that subscribers must be within 100 yards of the theatre when logging in (which activates the debit card) and the theatre must accept credit cards. Cinemas will get paid the going rate for

The new MoviePass service does come with a few restrictions. For instance, 3D and Imax films are not included as part of the monthly plan. As well, one can’t just subscribe to peak moviegoing months such as summer or the year-end holiday season.

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

YouTube Preview Image
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.

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CinemaCon 2011: Chris Dodd Makes Debut As MPAA Chairman

Chris Dodd At CinemaCon 2011

Chris Dodd At CinemaCon 2011

Nine days into his new position as Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Senator Christopher Dodd showed up at CinemaCon yesterday to address more than 2,000 delegates from the exhibition and distribution industries in what he called “the first performance of this new chapter in my life”. As expected, Dodd’s speech focused on piracy and the increased expansion of Hollywood films in the global marketplace.

Before getting into the meat of his speech, Dodd tried to defuse the tension developing between exhibitors and distributors over the studio’s premium video-on-demand offerings. “Our films are still made to be shown on big screens in dark theatres filled with people,” said Dodd, speaking directly to exhibitors. “As the new CEO and Chairman of the MPAA, I passionately believe there remains no better way to see a movie than in theatre, and no more important relationship for our studios to maintain than the the one we have with you.”

Dodd went on to discuss a subject matter that continuously came during his initial conversations with studio heads; piracy. Calling it the single biggest threat the industry faces, Dodd avoided using the label for what he believes too many people see as a victimless crime. Instead he replaced the word piracy with the phrase “movie theft”.

The politician in Dodd came out as he stood before the crowd proclaiming, “It is critical that we aggressively educate people to understand that movie theft is not just a Hollywood problem. It is an American problem.” He went on to talk about the 2.5 million, mostly middle class, people who work in the film industry earning USD $140 billion in annual wages, all of whom are hurt by movie piracy.

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MPAA Selects Chris Dodd For Top Job And Huge Challenges

Christopher J. Dodd

Christopher J. Dodd

All the rumors being reported by the mainstream press as a foregone conclusion were actually correct. This week the Motion Picture Association of America announced that Christopher Dodd, the former U.S. Senator from Connecticut, would become their chairman and chief executive beginning March 17th.

The position, often viewed as Hollywood’s top lobbyist, had been vacant for a year. MPAA president, Bob Pisano, filled in during that time and did what many consider to be a stellar job; he made sure Congress banned two movie futures trading exchanges and gained the Federal Communication’s approval for Selective Output Control (SOC) technology which is meant to prevent home entertainment devices from pirating video-on-demand content. Pisano will help Dodd make the transition into his new role with the MPAA.

Some news reports pointed out that Dodd, who is 66, comes to the job with no entertainment industry experience. But Jack Valenti, who led the MPAA for 38 years, came to the job with the same deficit in 1966. Though Dodd has a few industry connections with the likes of Robert Redford and Warren Beatty, from whom he sought advice before taking the position, it is his political background the MPAA found so appealing.

As a senator with five-terms under his belt, Dodd has a bit of experience negotiating complicated deals and drafting legislation like the Family and Medical Leave Act. During his 30 year run in the Senate he’s made a few influential friends in Washington. As an added bonus, Dodd has a reputation of being an intelligent and amiable person, traits which helped him during an unsuccessful campaign for President in 2008.

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Studios Are Fighting Movie Piracy On College Campuses

Piracy On College Campuses

A Warning To Copyright Infringers At Cornell

It looks as if the MPAA may be spying on college students, or at the very least monitoring their file sharing activity. Last week on CNET’s daily tech news podcast Buzz Out Loud the hosts read an email from a listener named Chris who explained how the MPAA has been leaving notes for students they believe are sharing movies online.

Illegal (and legal) file sharing is a constant topic of discussion on Buzz Out Loud as are the attempts of the MPAA and RIAA to prosecute those who participate in such activity. So Chris, a college student who lives in a dorm on the Cornell University campus, wrote in to pass along the news that the MPAA has identified his dorm as a den of illegal downloading. He writes (no emphasis added):

…my university (Cornell) has had run-ins with the MPAA and RIAA in the past over our school’s file sharing network. Everyday when I get back from class, I see a new notice on the message board in the lobby. About once a week there is a particular kind of message; this week’s reads:

‘Attention! Someone in Eddygate (my building) IS or WAS uploading the movie THE FIGHTER. STOP NOW!!! PARAMOUNT PICTURES WANTS YOU!!!

Last week it was ‘SONY PICTURES IS WATCHING YOU!’ for some other movie.

Are they now threatening college students specifically? … Are they possibly monitoring our specific building?… Are they really going through the effort to contact landlords and apartment managers to tell their residents to stop committing the ultimate evil?

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NATO Responds To ‘Twilight’ Pirate’s Lawsuit

nato-logoLess than 24-hours after we posted a story on the lawsuit filed against Muvico by a 22-year-old for being arrested for filming inside a movie theatre an email arrived from Patrick Corcoran, the National Association of Theatre Owners’ Director of Media & Research.

Corcoran not only provided a statement about Samantha Tumpach’s suit, but along with Brigette Buehlman also filled in a few details about the organization’s Take Action reward program.

Tumpach was arrested in November for filming portions of “Twilight: New Moon” during her sister’s birthday party inside a Chicago movie theatre. Her suit alleges that she was given no warning to stop filming and that even after the MPAA suggested releasing her, the theatre’s management had her arrested to collect a reward for stopping a camcorder pirate.

In our previous post Corcoran pointed out that Tumpach’s assertions were printed as fact, rather than allegations. Fair enough. That the history being presented was being drawn from Tumpach’s allegations and news reports could have been made clearer.

Corcoran also wrote:

“Any upset or unpleasantness Miss Tumpach believes she has suffered was a consequence of her own actions. Muvico was well within its rights to act as they did. Recording any part of a movie in a theater is illegal.

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