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Friday, February 07, 2014

Sean Kelly

Rant: How trying to stop piracy can ruin an evening

akiraThis week Cineplex has been holding their annual Great Digital Film Festival, which generally consists of them screening a number of older films over the course of the week. On a whim, I decided to go see the classic anime film Akira, which I have never seen.  Now, while I regularly go see older films at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and other repertory cinemas, this was only my second time seeing such a screening at Cineplex.  With Akira’s cult classic status, it probably wasn’t a surprise that the screening was practically sold out.  While I can say that I ended up enjoying the film, my overall night turned sour by my decision to try and stop piracy in its tracks.

It was very early in the screening when I noticed some people near the front taking out their phones to take photos and/or record the action on the screen.  Since I was in the middle of a row in a busy theatre, it was not really that possible for me to leave the theatre and get a staff member. Plus, I didn’t to ruin my viewing experience.  After initially trying to ignore the recording, my morals eventually kicked in and I yelled “stop recording,” which seemed to do the job for that individual.

The event that ultimately spoiled my night was when a guy directly in front of me took out his phone to take a photo of the screen and I harshly responded by kicking the guy’s seat and telling him to stop.  In hindsight, this was most definitely NOT the best course of action, however the use of phones in general (let alone for taking photos of the screen) is something I can no longer tolerate in cinemas and sometimes I can’t help but respond in anger.  Even though there was no further incident during the film, the guy and his friends confronted me after the film and things got heated.  While thankfully the situation didn’t get too out of hand, I was subjected to insults, lame defenses (i.e. “the film’s on YouTube”), and even outright bullying.  Because my Asperger’s doesn’t make me that good at confrontations, this was an argument I most definitely lost and to say that I was shaken and hurt afterwards was an understatement.

After taking a few minutes to regain my composure (and make sure that the jerks were long gone), I decided to make an official complaint to guest services. As somewhat expected, the manager told me that I shouldn’t have confronted them in the first place and that I should have left the theatre (missing the movie) and get a staff member to deal with the individuals. That said, I was still given a courtesy pass for my troubles.

There are a few things that I take away from this incident.  For starters, I am disturbed at the growing apathy towards movie piracy, especially when it comes to older movies.  I still really can’t believe that a guy tried to defending taking photos in the movie theatre because Akira can be found (illegally I might add) on YouTube.  It really says a lot about the general public’s perception of movie piracy and I fear that it is increasingly being viewed as a “normal” thing.  I also can’t say that I agree all that much with Cineplex’s policy of having an innocent party leave the film and report piracy, before anything can be done about it.  While, I do agree with them wanting to try and prevent confrontations like the one I had, I do think that they should try harder on their part to monitor screenings and catch pirates themselves, so innocent parties don’t have to be the ones who are punished.

Even though Cineplex is Canada’s biggest (and in many ways only) movie exhibitor, they have been really falling out of favour with me in recent months.  While I’ll probably still see my fair share of films in Cineplex Cinemas (mostly because there’s not that many alternate options), this will probably be the last time I see a reparatory screening at Cineplex.  Unlike the “serious cinephiles” who attend screenings at the Bell Lightbox, the very mainstream Cineplex theatres are way more likely to attract disrespectful jerks like the ones I encountered tonight and they just sap all the fun out of the movie-going experience.

Well, there is nothing more that I can do about this experience other than move on and hope that it never happens again.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).