Movie Theater Patrons Assumed Guilty and Berated Before Screening of American Teen

Last night I got this rather shocking email from my dad:

“We just had the most disturbing and obnoxious and offensive experienced at the Berkshire International Film Festival screening of “American Teenager.”  At the usual introduction a bulky little white haired man was introduced as representing the distributor. Behind him was a very large person, wearing some sort of a plastic id, who turned out to be some sort of security body guard. The white haired guy started lecturing the audience about movie piracy. He went on threateningly and angrily stating that any recording of any aspect of any movie, even in the background of a cell phone call was a felony and that the studio had hired security to watch the audience including special machines that could detect use of cell phones from blocks away. Then he took out a sheet of paper and a flashlight and started reading what he claimed was material from the FBI. Finally someone in the full-house audience called out that he was offended by the man and objected to his speech, his attitude towards the audience. At this point several other angry audience members spoke out and the man and his bodyguard stalked out. The manager of the theater apologized to the audience saying that the distributor insisted on the guy addressing the audience as a prerequisite for allowing the showing.

I felt ashamed of myself for not speaking up during the man’s fascist tirade and was pretty upset and pissed off for the first few minutes of the film. Afterwards, one of the kids who was in the documentary did a q&a and then the manager apologized again for the guy being allowed to give his threatening talk and asked the audience not to hold it against the distributor (at which there was some grumbling from the audience and I called out “why not?” and he gave me an annoyed look. And then we all went home.

Have you heard of this kind of thing at any other film festivals? It sounds like such a desperate and stupid extension of just the kind of anti-piracy nuttiness you’ve been writing about in your blog.”

I’ve heard similar stories but this just sickens me.  This is going to do more to hurt the movie business than any piracy could.  When will these entertainment conglomerates realize that treating your customers like criminals is simply not good business?

UPDATE: (from my mom)

“its distributor is Paramount Vantage. They were the ones insisted on the gestapo in order to let the festival show the film. And there were two security guards not one! What a shame because I thought the movie itself was terrific. First time I’ve seen some animation incorporated into a doc (used to highlight feelings and fantasies of the teens) at different points in the doc. Anyone who has ever been in h.s. will identify…lol.”



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10 responses to “Movie Theater Patrons Assumed Guilty and Berated Before Screening of American Teen

  1. mightybest

    Interesting. We worked with Paramount Vantage during Fantastic Fest for a screening of Son of Rambow back in September, and while they, like every studio, did have security guards who were armed with fancy little devices that would let them scan the crowd and see any recording device that may have been used, they didn’t require that an outside person give a speech against piracy. We told people not to try recording anything in our introduction to the movie, but our regular announcer for the festival, Tim League, announced it as part of his regular introduction, and Paramount Vantage didn’t ask for anything different than that. I wonder if there was some special circumstance with the announcer for that screening himself? Strange.

  2. Alrighty then

    wow, the great majority of movie patrons never pirate. What happened to the guy at the theater is just crazy. If production company’s want to police their productions then go ahead, but don’t make the patrons pay for it by some tirade gestapo tactics they are using to “make sure” no one is stealing their movie. Frankly this doesn’t make me want to spend any money on this madness. Sure there is pirating going on. Certainly there must be a better way to handle this. Been cutting back on movie entertainment, well now I know why. Thanks


    Does anyone know the bittorent address for this movie?

  4. I am surprised to hear about this happening at film festivals. But as I wrote in my blog about marketing and technology less than a year ago (, the technology exists that can place networked infrared cameras in theaters; this could become the sad reality.

    But then again it’s not too great a leap from existing video security cameras in malls, casinos, banks, etc. Is privacy a “right” in a public, commercial space just because it’s “dark” or we’re just watching “entertainment?” I’m afraid that “he with the deeper pockets wins….”

    It’s the attitude that makes the difference though, isn’t it? The man’s condescending communication taints the “brand” of Paramount Vantage. If they are going to treat us like criminals, then maybe others will avoid their films.

  5. Pingback: StumbleUpon Causes My Blog to Spike (on one post…) « MyMediaMusings

  6. Milander

    Yet another reason to avoid film festivals and cinemas. I personally hate modern cinemas with their bath towel size screens and crappy sound systems, I would politely suggest that people invest in a decent home cinema system and show a little patience for the DVD (HD-DVD) to come out and watch it at home.

    Seriously sooner or later the cinema industry will die and everything will be direct to disc. I hope it happens soon.

  7. Isn’t that one of those things that makes you want to do it just to piss them off more? It would me. I mean, even if I hadn’t been planning on recording the movie with a shaky camera phone, I’d want to at that point just to be able to laugh at them.

    Of course, then they’d probably haul me off to jail because they really did have devices detecting cell phones, but that’s besides the point.

    Also, wouldn’t that be sort of like wiretapping? They would, afterall, have to detect what was being transferred on your cell phone, whether it be a normal call and conversation or streaming video. Just a thought.

  8. Pingback: More Theater Patron Abuse - This Time Courtesy of Paramount « MyMediaMusings

  9. Pingback: More Theater Patrons Abused - This Time Thanks to Paramount « MyMediaMusings

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