Leading UK Cinema Implements MPAA Laptop Ban

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Cineworld, the UK's second largest multiplex cinema chain, says it provides an environment that makes cinema going a pleasurable experience, "which in turn encourages frequent return visits." However, they have just alienated an award winning TV and radio broadcaster by refusing him entry because he had his laptop with him.

Let’s get something out of the way. The UK is not a premier source of ‘cammed’ movies, and it never has been. Although a few badly cammed copies have originated from British cinemas over the years, the overwhelming bulk of pirate copies have appeared on the Internet from other sources, particularly given that most big movies have traditionally premiered overseas.

However, for the paranoid movie industry the UK does provide somewhat of a unique worry. While the incidence of cams coming from Britain is particularly insignificant, there is no such thing as an “illegally cammed movie” in the country, because, believe it or not, camming a movie is not illegal.

Earlier this year, boss of Vue Cinemas Tim Richards wrote about his dilemma.

“We call the police and the police aren’t interested,” said Richards. “So we ask (the pirates) to leave and they leave typically with their cameras and sometimes with their film intact.”

With the law about as much use as a chocolate teapot, cinema chains are resorting to implementing their own “laws” to stop the virtually non-existent cammers and, just like enforced DRM, all they do is annoy paying customers.

Jeremy Nicholas describes himself as “an award winning TV and radio broadcaster, after dinner speaker, compere and media trainer.” Like many of us, he also enjoys a good movie.

After work on Wednesday this week, Jeremy went to watch the new Bruce Willis movie at a cinema belonging to Cineworld, the UK’s second largest multiplex chain. Like most people on his way home, Jeremy had items on his person that enable him to do his job – one of them was a Sony laptop, an item too expensive to risk leaving in the car, particularly since it contained his current work projects, “plus some half baked book ideas.”

Because he had his laptop with him, Cineworld refused him entry.

Jeremy pointed out that his laptop has no camera feature, or additional hardware to record movies. Then, as if it is any of their damn business, cinema staff then enquired why he had bought it to the cinema at all. He duly explained he was on his way home from work.

Cinema staff then conceded Jeremy could be let in, but only if they could take his laptop from him. However, the cinema offered no receipt for the hardware, so Jeremy declined.

“So despite them treating customers with suspicion, as though were are all bootleggers, we have to trust them to get our equipment back,” said Jeremy.

“I was looking forward to watching the new Bruce Willis film. I wondered what Bruce would do under pressure,” he continued. “I wasn’t wearing a white vest, but decided I wasn’t standing for any nonsense and called for the manager. After a short time a small boy appeared. Sorry I said, I want to see the manager.”

But the small boy was the manager, who told Jeremy that they were acting on new “guidelines” from FACT – the MPAA-funded Federation Against Copyright Theft, which advised banning laptops.

Although the manager said Jeremy could go in with his laptop after all, a query was raised over his cellphone which did have the ability to record a movie. He could take it in, he was told, as long as he had no intentions to cam Bruce Willis with it.

“Not the most rigorous interrogation and one that a determined bootlegger probably could have passed,” said Jeremy.

And then, just to show how ridiculous this ban is, Jeremy said as he was being questioned, a number of suspects customers walked past with handbags and rucksacks, any of which could’ve contained recording equipment.

But Jeremy enjoyed the movie in the end.

“‘Surrogates’ is about a future world where people have been replaced by robots. Everything ran smoothly for a while, but in the end it all went wrong because the robots were efficient but lacked humanity. Cineworld should show this to their staff as a training movie. (As long as none of them try and record it),” Jeremy concludes.

Perhaps it’s time for Cineworld to remove the statement below from their website:

Founded in 1995, our philosophy has been to provide a modern, clean environment that makes “cinema going” a pleasurable experience, which in turn encourages frequent return visits.

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