“In some ways, ‘Tenet’ is a perfect storm for piracy, in that it has raised expectations, both regarding the film itself and the cinematic experience,” wrestling veteran said. against piracy Variety on condition of anonymity. “In addition, its availability is limited and suffers from a phased version. ”
The film’s uneven global release pattern – launched in some international territories on August 26 before arriving in some US cities on September 3 and in China on September 4 – is the result of the epic adventure that has been postponed. several times. When it opens in the United States, it’s unclear whether moviegoers in major markets like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, where theaters remain closed, will even be able to see it on the big screen. This could stimulate demand for pirated copies.
While other major hubs, like the superhero adventure “Aquaman,” have generated massive ticket sales despite a staged rollout across the globe, it’s rare for a movie to open in the United States. without playing in the Los Angeles or New York markets. It is also possible that people feel unsafe going to the theater during the public health crisis, potentially making them more willing to watch an illegal version of a movie that they would otherwise have been willing to watch on the big screen. screen. In some foreign markets, “Tenet” will come up against local events or other film releases that it might otherwise have avoided.
“We see that piracy can happen anywhere. This even happens in the three hours separating exits from the east and west coasts of the United States, ”explains the veteran anti-piracy.
While professional hackers prefer to get pristine recordings from a post-production facility or projection booth, the camcorder in theaters can be a significant danger in the early days of a movie’s release.
It is believed that there is a short-lived black market for hand-recorded images, and even partial recording is useful as pirate publishers will try to make as complete a version as possible. And an English soundtrack is considered especially valuable in the case of a Hollywood movie.
COVID-19 social distancing could potentially make it more difficult for a person with a camera to avoid being spotted, especially in the middle of the auditorium, where visual and audio experiences are at their best.
However, “the employment of security personnel to enforce physical distance will also facilitate anti-piracy surveillance during screenings of ‘Tenet’,” said a Spanish operator of the film, which opens August 26 in Spain.
The same exhibitor said he had no knowledge of the release by Warner Bros. anti-piracy advice to exhibitors in Spain. But he was aware that with Latin American cinemas mostly closed, there would be an increased demand for pirate Spanish-language versions.
The Spanish exhibitor said the terms and conditions received from Warner Bros. to date have largely focused on commercial concerns. They included a requirement that Nolan’s film should be shown for at least eight weeks and occupy the largest screens in each complex to compensate for the limited occupancy of the auditorium. Warner Bros. is also increasing its required percentage of gross box office revenue over last year’s “Joker”, the exhibitor said.
Other exhibitors in Malaysia, Korea and Thailand said that as of Wednesday they also had not heard of any specific terms and conditions for the hack from Warner Bros. Insiders of Warner Bros., as well as executives of rival studios. , note that there are prudent safety measures in place for any indoor release.
If illegal copies appear online, there are organizations working diligently to find and remove them from the internet. Privately, studio executives say pirated content is sometimes unavoidable, but feel there is less risk since “Tenet” debuts in China fairly soon after launch in other parts of the world.
“Thai moviegoers are excited about the arrival of ‘Tenet’ on screen. We are very happy with the performance of (recent Korean hit) “Peninsula” and look forward to “The Unhinged”, ”said Suvannee Chinchiewchan, general manager of Thai channel SF Cinemas.
“Exhibitors in Thailand have not been informed by Warner of any specific requirements for ‘Tenet’. They could ask us to implement measures such as guided tours or screening in projection booths, as has been done in the past, ”she said.
Warner Bros. has yet to reach out to UK-based exhibitors with specific anti-piracy advice for ‘Tenet’, but has started investing heavily in marketing and promotion for the film ahead of its August 26 launch. Tickets went on sale at midnight on August 11, with venues such as the Odeon BFI Imax closed for months, opening in time for the film’s screening.
“Warner Bros. did not specifically mention [piracy], but we are aware of this and are taking extra steps because Chris Nolan trusts us with “Tenet”. We are going to do whatever we can to help him, ”said a senior international exhibitor, adding that the steps taken so far are“ in everything we can do ”.
A senior studio executive, who asked to remain anonymous, noted that while Warner Bros. may not yet have focused their attention on hacking, they are “certain to have the full strength of their security and law enforcement teams around the world, no matter what hacking links emerge.” ”
“Each studio has very strong and comprehensive hacking / tech teams, all on alert when each movie is released,” the executive added.
The UK Film Content Protection Agency (FCPA) was established in 2016 as part of the Association of Film Distributors and works closely with studios and exhibitors to protect new releases. Piracy in cinemas is not widespread in the UK and is generally concentrated in small geographic groups across the country. Recent years, however, have seen an increase in cases in London, tarnishing a previously clean record.
Simon Brown, director of the FCPA, has been in contact with Warner Bros. and exhibitors, and will release a risk assessment for “Tenet” by the end of the week. The film is expected to receive a “Vulnerable Release Alert,” known as VRA, which means that additional precautions and tips are released in theaters. The FCPA will then monitor the situation and decide whether to deploy covert operations.
The technology used in theaters includes everything from infrared video surveillance in auditoriums at chains such as Vue, to portable night vision devices used by staff. In small independent businesses, such as Genesis Cinema in London, there are bag searches at the entrance, regular screen checks and continuous screen checks in inhabited screening rooms.
There is, ultimately, a heavy reliance on film workers, which the FCPA encourages to report incidents with rewards. “We rely so much on the vigilance and awareness of cinema staff,” says Brown, noting that 188 incidents in 2019 were identified and disrupted by staff.
The concern this year, however, is how many film workers will return to their jobs after the lockdown period. “We don’t know how many new employees there will be, in which case we need to make sure they know the basics of tackling piracy. This is a problem for us because a lot of staff has been lost during that time, ”says Brown.
An unforeseen hacking challenge this summer, however, will no doubt be the unprecedented surge in drive-in cinemas across the UK Drive-ins are not the cultural touchstone they are in the US. but a four-month movie shutdown saw more than 40 new open-air theaters set up across the country. At least one drive-in operator, the Drive In chain, has started selling “Tenet” tickets for an Aug. 31-Sept. 13 run.
“It’s a big challenge,” says Brown. “We really rely on the staff because it’s almost impossible to catch someone in a car.” The FCPA is currently developing best practices for drive-ins in particular, which can be particularly vulnerable to audio piracy.
Laura Elmes, producer at Drive In London, ensures that theaters take the necessary precautions, with video surveillance “everywhere on the site”.
“We also have 20 officers patrolling the site. We’re pretty well covered, to be honest, because it’s not a dark cinema either, it’s pretty easy to see if anyone is trying to get away with movies, ”Elmes says.
What if they catch someone filming? “We would ask them to remove everything they have, then we would watch them – depending on what they are doing, we might ask them to leave. Obviously, hacking is our top priority because it is so important. We would prevent them from coming back. It’s definitely the top of the list.
Naman Ramachandran, John Hopewell and Rebecca Rubin also contributed to this report.