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Before movies are screened

Signs or posters should be prominently displayed at the point of entry, cinema box offices, on screen and throughout the cinema, informing customers that the use of recording devices is prohibited in the cinema. Where applicable, the signage can also warn patrons that there may be random bag and jacket checks for those items.

Cinema management should make themselves aware of what laws apply to illegal recordings and communicate with local police to determine how they will response to incidents.

During screening

The earlier in the movie release period, the more valuable it is to thieves. Always be alert, but pay particular attention during new release periods.

Thieves favour cinemas with small audiences. The early morning and late shows are ideal times for them to attempt to illegally record a film.

Look for unusual behaviour like coats in hot weather, strangely arranged clothing, odd shapes outlined in pockets or patrons carrying shopping bags. If any of these are observed take a closer look.

Thieves frequently set up long before the movie begins. Unless spotted during set up, thieves can be difficult to detect. Monitoring the auditorium well in advance of start time increases the likelihood of detecting or deterring an illegal camcorder.

Thieves may use clamps or other devices attached to seats in front of them or beside them to improve the camera’s line of sight to the screen and to steady the recording. Devices are sometimes placed in cup holders for the same purpose.

Thieves are ingenious when it comes to concealing cameras. It may be as simple as a coat or hat placed over the camera, or as innovative as a specially designed concealment device. Pay special attention to clothing, packages or other possible concealment aids that are placed in direct line of sight with the screen.

Thieves do not always act alone. They may be accompanied by colleagues who aid in set up or act as lookouts. Thieves can appear as a couple or even a family. It is sad to say, but some thieves have even brought small children or babies with them to use as a cover.

Often thieves cannot fully conceal the small glowing light on the camera. If someone is seemingly “on their mobile phone” throughout the entire first hour of the film or if cinema staff notice a small green or red glow in the dark of the auditorium, take a closer look. The professional thief will often use a remote viewing device to ensure that the entire screen is in the frame.

Thieves often try to place themselves in the absolute centre of the cinema or try to shield themselves by having an accomplice sit on either side of them.


More than 90% of newly released movies that appear illegally on the Internet and on the streets around the world originate from illegal copies being made in cinemas.