Warner Bros. Filming Theater Audiences

by Paul William Tenny

This is truly some creepy stuff. In an unverified letter written to The Consumerist, a D.C. moviegoer who went to see The Invasion (based on its weekend numbers, he is about the only person who did) noticed someone in the theater with the audience, sporting a video camera of some sort, but he wasn't trying to record an illegal bootleg of the film. I'm not sure anyone would want to, given the bad reviews. But no, this guy was apparently filming the audience periodically to get their faces on tape for WB.

After the movie I went to the Customer Service desk to inquire if they knew about this incident. The manager behind the desk informed me that Time Warner/Warner Bros had contracted a security company to film movie theater audiences around the country during the opening weekend of its movies in an effort to prevent piracy.

Warner Brothers has the right to ask, but they don't control theaters. The only way this happens is when the theater bends over and complies after an empty threat. I seriously doubt any threat to withhold their films by Warner Brothers would actually result in the boycott of any theater, especially with the way Invasion bombed. That film only made about $6 million this weekend ($3.2m after theaters take their cut) on costs of about $80 million. You do the math, and tell me where Warner Brothers should be spending their money, and focusing their attention.
I overheard at least 4 other people complain to customer service about this incident, with 2 of them stating that if this ever happened again they would stop using this particular chain of theaters. I was quite surprised at the reaction of the customer service employee, he did not seem to to care one bit that people were opening telling him they would stop using this theater and he brushed off the criticism by shrugging his shoulders and just stared blankly back at those of us who were complaining and passed the blame to Time Warner/Warner Bros.

Four here, four there, eventually you're talking about some serious numbers. But I guess it really doesn't matter to theater owners. They aren't the ones spending $80 million to make movies and are happily gouging people with $11 tickets for crappy accommodations, crappy snacks, and bad parking.

Read Wil Wheaton's commentary on this, where I originally found the story. His story about the home theater system replacing theaters is dead on. Screw driving an hour to sit in a cramped theater which a bunch of jerks who don't know know how to shut up for an hour and a half. I'll wait for the DVD.

Actually, with what I'm doing these days, I'll wait for the DVD so I can rip it to AVC-1 and store that sucker on my HTPC. Then that box and disc are going right in the closet with my CD's.

I will never go to a theater chain that allows this kind of intrusion. Not only that, I won't go back even after they've stopped. And seriously, this isn't going to stop piracy. Just look at the theater bootlegs, most of them are shot in an empty theater because the guy paid someone off, or actually works at the theater himself. Live audience bootlegs are crappy and rare, and this will never stop the real problem, which isn't this stuff.

It's the millions of picture-perfect copies selling for $1-3 on the streets of China. Way to harass the people who actually paid to see your movie Warner Brothers. Way to screw the people who choose the right path who will now rather wait for the DVD, or just steal it.

All because of you.


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