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Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat Invade Theaters, But Movie Biz Not Too Worried

Theatergoers are already using Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat live-streaming video apps, which have launched in the past few weeks, to broadcast movies directly from cinemas — including this weekend’s blockbuster, “Furious 7.”

However, studios apparently aren’t overly concerned that box office will be hurt by the shaky, handheld live streams on Periscope and Meerkat, which may include only a few minutes of a film anyway. Other forms of piracy, including in-theater camcorders who try to sell copies of films and peer-to-peer downloaders, are a much more serious concern.

A search on Twitter revealed at least a dozen posts by users purporting to be live-streaming “Furious 7” on Periscope, and at least one Meerkat user doing the same. Yes, that’s a drop in the bucket for the pic, which is on track to clear $150 million in its opening frame, but it’s still early days for the apps, which quickly have become popular among the technorati.

“We haven’t encountered any issues with (Periscope or Meerkat) yet,” said Patrick Corcoran, National Association of Theatre Owners VP and chief communications officer. But, he added, theaters generally do not allow patrons to use devices capable of recording video to be used in auditoriums: “The same would be true of devices that live-stream.”

Still, NATO and MPAA are both concerned about new technologies making it easier to pilfer and share movies. It’s worth noting that last fall, the orgs officially prohibited recording by users equipped with Google Glass or other wearable devices in theaters as part of their joint policy to prevent film theft.

One Hollywood exec said the short-lived nature of Meerkat and Periscope streaming makes it less worrisome than other recording devices. Meerkat streams are only available to view live, while Periscope lets users offer replays for only up to 24 hours. “Meerkating a full movie in a theater is not particularly practical,” the exec said. “The experience of watching a live-streamed version on a phone is not going to stand up.”

Both Periscope and Meerkat, according to their terms of use, forbid users from streaming coprighted material and say they’ll pull down streams that violate the policies.

At this point, media and entertainment companies stand to have more to gain from Periscope and Meerkat by using the services for promotions and special events than they might be hurt by unauthorized broadcasts of their content. In fact, Imax used Periscope to live-stream a promotional video feed from the L.A. premiere of “Furious 7” on April 1.

It’s not known how many of Friday night’s Periscope streams of “Furious 7” were authentic, or how long they may have been able to stream the movie. A broadcast from someone in Tabasco, Mexico, was available for replay Saturday morning; however, less than 1 minute of video (dubbed in Spanish) was actually available, and the quality was poor:

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