They’re wanding and patting down people going into movie theaters now.
The searches have nothing to do with terrorism. The movie industry is asking us to put our feet back and spread ’em because of — movie pirates.
We’re not talking about Johnny Depp and his swashbuckling friends. Several states, such as California and Ohio, now have laws enabling police to arrest people for videotaping flicks in theaters. Some theater chains now hire rent-a-goons to frisk entering patrons, not to find snacks, but cameras.
That’s right. Cops dragging you downtown because you stupidly decided to hold up your cell-phone camera in a cheapskate effort to try to find Nemo a place in your home video library.
Now, taping movies is wrong. When done by real pirates, it should be a crime. Even the little pirate, if caught, also should be charged. This is appropriating others’ property, just as if one broke into Megamovie Productions’ vault and stole film reels of a big hit.
But for $8.50 a ticket, outside of somebody bringing in something that’s leaking or ticking, the only thing anyone should be suspected of in a multiplex is smuggling in popcorn or perhaps switching theaters.
Besides, as the Associated Press reported in Monday’s Tribune, a study by AT&T Labs released in October concluded that 77 percent of pirated films found on the Internet came from either movie company employees or theater workers taping from the projection booth.
The Motion Picture Association of America disputes this, saying 92 percent of piracy is from camcorders. Even if that were true, ways exist to surreptitiously scan audiences from the dark recesses of a theater, electronically find operating camcorders and remove violators. Theaters could then confiscate any pirated tapes and sue perpetrators civilly for damages.
But local police have better things to do than play Keystone Kops by arresting petty pirates of the pictures, however many there are. And theater chains ought to think twice before setting up pat-down parlors in their lobbies. The practice just makes renting a DVD to take home all the more appealing.