Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter Pilfered?

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning 36 minutes of the new Harry Potter movie have been leaked online, causing an investigation by Warner Brothers. Both of them. 

According to the story, "the watermarked footage was available for download on the BitTorrent file-sharing sites and as late as Wednesday, despite Warner Brothers’ attempts to have the illegal downloads removed."

Arguably, Harry Potter is among the most successful film franchises in history, but there are those within the business who worry audiences won’t turn out for the final film's first installment after seeing the early minutes of the film. The WSJ article takes pains to note the film footage was not stolen from the premieres in London and New York.

That’s good, because as much as I like going to the movies...and as much as I appreciate the privilege of getting to see first-run films first, sometimes before anyone else...the process of getting into a theatre for a screening has almost become as onerous as getting on a commercial aircraft.

One theatre in particular in my town is especially aggressive about screening entrants to its screenings, going so far as to inspect women’s purses and running magnetic wands all over your body.

Inside the theatre, as with most businesses, you’d think the proprietors of these movie emporiums would want to lavish you with hospitality and warm feelings of welcome. Ha! Stern-faced “security” goons troll the aisles, looking for a tell-tale flash of LCD-blue in the semi-darkness, betraying the use of a (gasp) smart phone inside the theatre before the movie begins. And just before the film rolls, one of the more authoritarian phone-Nazis intones a final announcement that if they see your phone light up during the show, they’ll escort you from the theatre, “never to return.” Does that mean you’re off to the anti-piracy gulag, or just on the street until your date finishes watching the movie.

Let’s think about this. Most Cinemaphiles are extremely critical of the quality of the presentation--we have come to expect precise, digital sound and digital images that are more crisp and vivid than ever before. Plus, as influential members of the Media, some of us can see a movie nearly anytime we want--most times for free--and generally before anyone else. Who in their right mind would jeopardise that gravy-train by attempting to capture on a smartphone a video of a movie for reposting to And if we did, why would anyone want to watch a copy of such poor quality?

Dude, wait a week and you can catch a matinee in a theatre nearly all to yourself, and within 6-months, you can own a virgin, Blue Ray copy of any film, complete with bonus tracks about the special effects, making of the movie, and directors’ comments--usually for less than the price of your tab at the concession counter (that’s a subject for a whole other rant!)

So, for the same reasons you must now shed your shoes and belts, and subject yourself to invasive searches and patdowns because some fool tried to light up his sneakers or pack his pants with some fool’s attempt to hijack Harry Potter’s next movie will likely make your next visit to the theatre slightly less (or more) titillating than the title you’re there to see!

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