A fun night at the movies

CTV News brings glad tidings. Over-zealous theatre personnel overstepped their bounds and their employer had to pay for it. According to the CTV story:

The incident happened in 2007 when a woman took her two daughters to Cinemas Guzzo in Montreal to watch the film Shrek the Third, said CTV Montreal’s Rob Lurie.

Staff at the theatre were searching customers’ bags for video equipment that could be used for movie piracy.

Security guards didn’t find any video equipment in the family’s bags, but did turn up a large selection of snack food, which they asked the family to take back to their vehicle, Lurie said.

“They did so willingly. But they continued the search of the bags and while searching they also uncovered some birth control pills belonging to the older daughter,” Lurie said.

“Needless to say the mother was not pleased to find out in this manner that her daughter had those pills in her possession.”

They stepped so far over the line that they couldn’t even see the line anymore! If the stated purpose of the search was for video recording equipment, even their squawking about the snacks was out of line. One cannot request a search for something in particular, be allowed permission on those grounds, and then pull out anything they want.

The reason I’m so pleased the theatre was forced to pay $10,000 in compensation for violation of privacy is because a search isn’t licence to broadcast the results. This was an egregious violation of the daughter’s privacy. She hadn’t told her mother that she was taking birth control pills. Whether this is a good idea or not, the choice is hers to make. It’s certainly not the theatre’s place to search for video equipment and then haul out her birth control pills for anyone to see.

I don’t know if the compensation is appropriate, but I’m very pleased to see the theatre ordered to pay more than a token amount.

According to the article, Vince Guzzo, vice-president of Cinemas Guzzo, offered his opinion on the judgement:

What the judge is saying is we could search bags, the problem is we have to tell people at the moment of purchasing the ticket with a sign at the ticket booth. And we’re not allowed to put our hands in your bag, which is totally understandable. I don’t want to put my hands in your bag. In fact, leave the bags in the car.

I’d suggest that his interpretation is misleading. They can search your bags if you allow them to. If you refuse, they can refuse you entry. Fair enough.

And if it’s totally understandable, why did his staff do it?

For myself, they wouldn’t be searching my bags. Being a guy, I wouldn’t have any bags with me anyway, but the mere thought rubs me the wrong way. If they choose to deny me entrance, I certainly respect their right to make this decision. Refund my money and I’ll happily take my business elsewhere.

Despite their resurgence, theatres seem to be working to drive customers away. I have to pay $10 to get in the door, and another $10 if I want popcorn and a drink. Once I find a seat, I’m subjected to video projection of ads until the real presentation starts…with ten more minutes of ads. The quality of the presentation is nothing to get excited about. The image is unsteady and soft. The sound is fine, but the extended conversations around me do nothing for the experience. And then, the copy protection codes embedded in the film itself distract me perhaps a dozen times during the movie.

This is worth $20? Really? Requiring me and my companions to submit to a search will certainly affect how often I go to theatres. I haven’t experienced this level of invasive checking locally, but I don’t doubt it’s coming.

If the goal is to drive me away, theatres are pursuing the correct course of action.

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One Comment

  1. Shawn
    Posted June 2, 2009 at 08:45 | Permalink

    You overlooked the joy of having to sit in someone else’s filth. I love sticky shoes! As to getting searched, I would be asking for a refund. Buy a set of night vision goggles and scan the crowd if you need to. What ever happened to ushers in the aisles. Next it will be metal detector and a rectal search.

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