Taking a camera to the cinema

[UPDATE: The free invitation arrived]

A few weeks ago I went to see a movie with a friend, and carried on me my digital camera. Which resulted in a little unpleasantness. I sent an email to the company (Rav-Hen) running that cinema:

A few days ago I went to see a movie, in the Rav-Hen Dizengoff cinema.
I had with me a new digital camera, inside a small
holster on my belt. This was the first time I ever
arrived to a movie carrying a camera with me.

The security guard saw the holster, asked if I have a
camera inside it, and when I gave a positive response
he informed me that it is not allowed to take a camera
into the cinema, and I will need to deposit it with
security.

I tried to explain to the guard that this is not a
video camera, so I could not use it to make a pirate
copy of the movie even if I wanted to, but to no
avail. When I asked him what is the problem with
carrying cameras, and why are they not allowed, he was
unable to answer me, and only said it’s policy, and
that he doesn’t understand it either.

Worse, when giving the camera I was not provided with
any official deposit form. I was asked for my name,
and was given a simple hand-written note on a piece of
entirely common note paper, having my name and the
word Camera written on it by the women inside the
security room.

Had my friend not been there earlier, and saw people
giving those paper notes and getting cameras back, I
would have made a scene, since it looked entirely
unofficial, and made me seriously doubt that I’ll see
the camera again. If I wave a simple handwritten paper
and claim it’s a deposit receipt, in most places I
would fully expect to be told that’s nonsense.

In this case it ended well, I gave back the note, and
got back my camera, but the entire experience left me
mystified, and was very unprofessional.
In addition, no verification of either my personal
details or the camera details was done. Anyone
standing in the vicinity when I deposited the camera
could have easily written their own note, hand it
over, and get my camera. The current procedure is
entirely open to abuse.

Due to that I wanted to ask you:

  1. Why are simple (non-video) cameras not allowed
    inside the cinema?
  2. Why are the security guards are in charge of it?
    It’s not a security issue, and making other things a
    part of their duty hurts security.
  3. If this is indeed official procedure, why do you
    not issue proper forms, and trust on simple and sloppy
    hand-written notes?
  4. Why aren’t any checks done to better identify the
    identity of the people depositing, and withdrawing,
    the cameras? And that they are getting the right
    camera?
  5. Why are the people in charge of implementing the
    policy not informed as to the reasons for it?

Thank you for a reply, and for any better explanation
about the reasons for this policy, and these
procedures, that you could supply.

A couple of weeks passed, nothing happened. I decided to try this one more time, this time sending the message in Hebrew. Could be that they’re used to getting email in Hebrew, and so this one got ignored, or even discarded by some automatic filter.

I sent them what was effectively a translation of the above message, with some few styling changes. And this time, though it took them about a week, they did answer. The reply was in Hebrew, but this is a quick and rough translation:

We confirm receiving your complaint, and this our reply:

Company policy of the Rav-Hen network forbids inserting cameras from all kinds into the cinema halls, in the intention of preventing any sort of photography of the shown film, due to copyright issues. The policy apply to all kinds of photographic equipment, since our people do not have the expertise to observe the different functionality of each camera.

The enforcement of this guideline is increasing these days, mostly due to the problem of piratical distribution of cinematic movies in various ways, which usually start through cinema visitors who film the movie while it is projected, using cameras of different kinds.

Since these guidelines are new, and the scope of the phenomenon is still relatively small, the network did not yet determine the bureaucratic procedure for applying them in the cinemas.

In any case, in these days the final format for forms which will be transferred to the cinema managers, and will replace the currently existing temporary method, is being finalized.

We see very gravely the fact that the cinema staff was unaware of the meaning of the procedures, and following your complaint to us the procedure will be explained again.

They also said that they added to the message a double invitation for a movie in any of the network cinemas (under several limitations which will be printed on the invitation, and which they advise me to pay attention to). This was of course not actually attached to the message, but rather a note there asked me to provide them with a mailing address to send it to. Considering that while it was annoying, the event didn’t technically hurt the viewing of the movie, this is nice of them.

How did this reply answer my actual questions?

  1. Simple cameras are not allowed because their people, who do not understand anything about cameras (them being security guards), can’t tell if the cameras are problematical or not. This is actually fair. I suppose that it is quite possible to have video cameras that look small and harmless, and the technology just gets better and smaller. So erring on the side of caution is understandable. Still, I do doubt that a running film, on its third or fourth week of being shown, and after there are already numerous versions available either to download or to purchase piratically, is really a high risk. Even with a video camera, nobody would have a reason to try and shoot the film.
  2. No reply as to why the security guards are doing it. And no response about this hurting security. I’m not sure if that’s because they don’t want to talk about it, or that they see it as a non-issue. Bad either way. And has something to do with the lack of professionalism on this angle, since that’s not the field that the security people has to deal with, or understand something about. I assume the real reason has to do with, of course, money. That being that the security guards are already there, and get paid anyway.
  3. The procedure seemed haphazard because it was. They decided they don’t want cameras, sent out the instruction to not allow cameras, and only then started to plan how they actually want to do it. Considering that the problem wasn’t critical (as they say themselves), there wasn’t any extreme urgency, so they could have waited until they could do it properly. It has been about a month since the time the incident occurred, so even if I had the luck to stumble on the very first day of implementation, that’s still a whole month for setting a procedure while they already passed the instructions. This is a long time to run blind and without protocol.
  4. Taking the camera back is probably under the same category, so I hope this would improve as well once they implement proper procedures. I take it that not too many camera thefts has occurred in the meantime, or I’d have probably heard about it by now.
  5. The security guards apparently were supposed to be able to tell me that they have to take the camera because they can’t tell if the camera was a video camera or not. This despite the fact (oh, don’t bother anyone with facts) that the security guard appeared quite aware that the camera was not a video camera, and seemed to even recognize the model.

Still, all’s well that ends well, and this ended well enough. I did get the camera back at the time. They did reply. And they are aware of at least some of the problems, and intend to make the procedure more solid. In the meantime, if for some odd reason I’ll ever go to the cinema with the camera on me, I’ll just put it in my pants’ pocket instead, so nobody will notice it and have any problem (yes, it is that small, my wrongly suspected to be video-camera). Either that, or I’ll try and do it properly, just to see how are they handling it now.

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