Now is the season of fear.
As the first of the year's big releases hove into view, we are truly approaching the cinema's Summer of Paranoia. The time when distribution companies begin to panic, cinema chains ramp up security to intrusive levels and projectionists get beaten with the shitty end of the stick.
Of course, we have the benefit of never having to look a customer in the eye and say "Excuse me, could I just root around in your handbag for a moment, to make sure you're not a crafty pirate or owt?", but we bear a different brunt of the widespread piracy panic.
As the big movies approach their release dates, distributors have to come up with new and interesting ways to appear to be "fighting piracy". The method grinding my gears at the moment is to simply not deliver the print of your big release to cinema sites until the day before it goes in front of the public.
From a purely personal point of view, this is a pain in the neck. At my site, we have no fewer than six new 35mm films showing this weekend, along with one new digital print. This poses a problem when we usually only have one projectionist on at a time and the two biggest releases of the weekend are going to show up on thursday, which is our busiest day of the week anyway.
This unexpectedly tight schedule we are expected to work to is, as I mentioned before, due to a security protocol from a major distribution company, which we were informed has come "direct from Hollywood", and also due to a recent piracy incident in one of our cinemas.
Now, said piracy incident was a typical gumby-with-a-mobile filming attempt in a public showing, which surely begs the question: How does holding a print back from the cinema until the last possible second stop that kind of piracy?
The prints are often sent to us under false names, they are kept in secure areas of the cinema at all times, and any staff-show or preview is always overseen by a manager/projectionist, or both. This leads me to only one conclusion.
We are suspects.
The distribution companies don't trust the very people who are feeding their product to the masses.
I suppose it's not unheard of; like a low-level drug-dealer skimming off the package, but do they really think that we are sitting in print-checks with a video camera? That when anyone comes to a staff show they bring a tripod and a boom mic? And we're ALL IN ON IT?
I feel a serious lack of trust in this relationship.