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Piracy Fighters Use Night Goggles

Warner Bros. is deploying the devices in Britain for use during showings of the new 'Harry Potter' film.

June 01, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ushers at British theaters showing the new Harry Potter film have been issued military-style night vision goggles to thwart cinema pirates.

Vue Cinemas said Monday that its staff would spend all two hours and 22 minutes of the film "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" scanning the theaters in an effort to uncover anyone trying to secretly record the film.

The goggles were distributed to Vue's cinemas around Britain, along with copies of the film, by Warner Bros. The Burbank-based studio is determined to fight back after a deluge of poor-quality copies of the first two Harry Potter movies hit the black market.

"It is an incredible response and makes you realize why the distributors are so keen to protect the film from pirates," said Jamie Graham, who manages a Vue complex in Ellesmere, central England.

"I have been working in the cinema industry for 10 years, and I have never heard of anything like this before."

This isn't the first time Warner Bros. has deployed night goggles for theater ushers to use to search for pirates. The studio, owned by Time Warner Inc., has been distributing goggles in the U.S. since the November release of "The Matrix: Revolutions."

The effort has led to the arrest of several people attempting to surreptitiously record films with camcorders. The Motion Picture Assn. of America estimates that studios lose more than $ 3.5 billion annually because of piracy.

Graham said his theater had sold 6,500 tickets for the movie before 9 a.m. Monday, the film's opening day in Britain.

"Our ushers are using the goggles in every screening to check nobody is making any illegal recordings," he said. "If anybody is caught, then they will be reported to the police."

The popularity of the Harry Potter movie franchise shows little sign of dwindling, with hundreds of fans turning out for the premiere of the new film Sunday night in London's Leicester Square.

The movie opens Friday in the United States.

Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

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