Euro exhibs want U.S. help with piracy

Exhibitors lobby for Hollywood to share data

European exhibitors are lobbying Hollywood to share data on illegally copied movies. Industry body the Intl. Union of Cinemas (Unic) will send a letter to the Motion Picture Assn. of America in the coming days asking for equal treatment with exhibitors in the U.S., according to Unic topper Ad Weststrate.

National Assn. of Theater Owners prexy John Fithian is backing the move. He argues that with pirates increasingly shifting to Europe to video-record new releases, Hollywood should open up.

Studios use watermarks to track pirate copies of new films back to the theaters where they were recorded. In the U.S., exhibitors in the same city or region are then rapidly alerted that pirates are at work, and can step up security. In Europe, the MPAA informs the exhibitor involved that illegal recording has been going on, but not the owners of neighboring theaters. According to Weststrate, no reason has been given for the refusal to share this data.

Fithian argued that with pirates increasingly shifting to Europe to record new releases, Hollywood should open up. “How can the studios say that European exhibitors have to fight more against piracy when they don’t give them the data?” he said. Fithian said the studios may be worried about being sued under European competition law if affected theaters subsequently have problems securing prints.

Fithian and Weststrate announced that their two orgs are working together on the issue at Unic’s first European Cinema Summit in Brussels, which kicked off Monday. The four-day event has been created as a forum for industry concerns and to increase policy leverage. Unic has members in 17 European countries, accounting for 28,000 screens.