So Elaine and I scored some advance passes to “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” tonight, 7 PM, at Cinerama. She left work a bit before 5 to get in line and hold our place; by the time she arrived, the line was already down the block, and the show was clearly going to sell out.
I got downtown from work around 6:15, joined her in line, and we spent the half hour chatting and catching up on the day.
So the line moves, we’re at the doors to the theater, turn in our passes, get our hands stamped, and then they want to look through our bags for camcorders, etc. I take off my backpack, open it. It’s all work stuff – binders and folders and notebooks, really – and then I open the front pocket, which has my wallet and my iPhone.
(Which is off.)
The woman’s got a flashlight and a little stick that she’s using to do security screenings, and, once she sees the iPhone, says, “I’m sorry, you can’t go in.”
I blink. “Excuse me?”
“No cell phones allowed.”
I point out that it’s off, and she says that doesn’t matter. “The rules are clear. No phones.” She then suggests I leave it in my car.
“I don’t have a car,” I tell her. “I just came from work. On the bus. All my stuff is with me, and I don’t have any place to put it.”
“I’m sorry,” she says, in a very I’m-not-at-all-sorry-voice. “The rules are clear. No phones.”
I blink, look at Elaine, blink again, shrug, and then we leave, walking past the hordes and noticing that replays of this conversation (“What? It’s my cell phone. I have it on me all the time…”) are happening all over the place.
So now Elaine has wasted two hours of her time, we’re not seeing the movie, and the studio (Warners) clearly doesn’t give a hang about it. I understand the need to combat piracy – I really do – but pissing off honest moviegoers with ridiculous (and ridiculously ineffective) rules like this is insane.
Be warned. Leave your phone at home.
As for us? We’re planning to rent something on DVD … and preferably not made by Warner Brothers.
The studio told the theaters, “no cell phones”, because some phones can record video. Never mind that cell phone video quality is awful, movie execs are freaking out industry-wide over piracy. Hollywood seems content to put their own anti-piracy responsibilities on their customers. Bad move. Seems similar to the RIAA suing teenagers for downloading songs.
Cell phone searches will likely end when the movie is released. Still, theaters nationwide should use readily available technology to fight piracy. Night vision goggles are great at spotting illicit recording, and I’ve seen them used effectively. Seems like a better plan than turning people away.