The looks of modern movie theaters near Portsmouth, New Hampshire may not indicate the storied history of theater in the region. The first public performance pieces in the area probably originated centuries ago amongst Native American tribes. The strict obedience the European settlers had for their Puritan religion forbade most theatrical performance. To most Puritans, God and the Bible were considered sufficient to wholly occupy one's leisure time and also felt that "disguise is sinful." The popularity of the theater increased in direct relation to the changing political landscape during the American Revolution era, as a dissatisfied public had developed an appetite for performances of open opposition to British rule. The theater remained to most—especially those in authority—a distraction from church and work at best and a catalyst for uprisings at worst. Between the combined authority of religion and government, self-expression was not encouraged and this retarded the growth of the theater in colonies such as New Hampshire.
It was not until the nineteenth century arrived that the theater in New England became more common. In this primordial stage of New England theater, it was not uncommon for violent fights and arson to take place surrounding performances. In 1844, Boston actor W.H. Smith wrote "The Drunkard," which became an immensely successful hit and was performed for decades. The success of productions like "The Drunkard" established New England as a destination for performers and the number of available playhouses increased dramatically as a result. New England boasted its own regional film companies by the dawn of the twentieth century, including Rhode Island's Eastern Film Corporation, the Photoplay Corporation in Massachusetts, and Dirigo Pictures and Pine Tree Pictures in Maine.
The twentieth century brought the cultural movement known as the "American Renaissance." To fulfill the rising demand for American films film companies drew inspiration from such New England authors as Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne alone would have his The Scarlet Letter adapted for the screen four times between 1909 and 1934. Fellow New England author Henry James has had similar success, with adaptations such as The Green Room, The Portrait of a Lady, and The Innocents—based on the novella "The Turn of the Screw." The stories of both have been said to draw on the landscape of New England and its tumultuous past. The rugged land of New England has been praised by filmmakers for "duplicating the twin images of a dark, puritanical inwardness" and pastoral villages, with "its cold, harsh winters, blazing fall colors [and] brilliant but brief summers."
The theater continued to grow during this time and was also markedly influential on early film. Playwright Eugene O'Neill, for instance, has had several of his plays produced on film. The play "Our Town" by New England playwright Thornton Wilder achieved success when it was made into a movie in 1940. Peterborough, New Hampshire was the inspiration for the town in Wilder's play and served as the filming location when it was set to film. These men and many others helped to create an image of New England which has persisted to the present. The two sides of New England lifestyles, repressed, simplistic and traditional small town life and expressive, modern and dangerous urban life were often pitted against one another, beautifully contrasted in 1915's The Old Homestead. The film was produced by Famous Players from Denman Thompson's long-running nineteenth-century play about Joshua Whitcomb, set between New Hampshire and New York City.
The theater continues to portray the life and land of New England and theaters once condemned now tend to be treasured. You may want to remember the long history the next time you take a seat in a New Hampshire movie theater and remark at our progress.
Movie bootlegging may now pose a greater threat to the film industry than ever before. It has been estimated that movie bootlegging costs over $900 million and the loss of 23,000 jobs annually in New York state. Combined with DVD piracy, internet leaks and the resulting losses in production, the state can lose over $3 billion in a year.
One of the problems is that there are so many ways to easily bootleg movies, such as simply smuggling a camera into the movie theater. A cam, what the bootlegged movie is sometimes called, is a financial threat to the theaters and those relying on their income because many people are viewing the movie for the price of only one ticket. The theaters have attempted to deter filming cams by banning people from carrying bags, but the small size of cameras has made it easier to smuggle them into the theater. Ushers are now being equipped with night vision goggles to better catch bootleggers in the act of making cams. Other cams are made from the projectionist booth itself, recorded by actual employees of the movie theater. This creates better recordings because of the center view from the booth and audio that can be recorded directly.
More and more commonly, bootlegging is reliant on rips and screeners which tend to offer top of the line reproduction quality. The ripping of DVDs is the use of software to extract a copy from officially licensed media-a rip. These are generally the easiest method of bootlegging films and produces the best quality results. A screener (SCR) is an advance copy from studios which are used for production or promotional purposes and usually lacking finishing touches, generally "rough cuts" never meant for public viewing. Movie studios are affected directly in these cases and leaks can cause a production to be revised or even canceled. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has endeavored to stop this practice by drafting contracts with harsh penalties for leaks. A leak to the public earned one offender a $150,000 fine for each title leaked.
Aside from monetary concerns, the creators behind a film often express that their creativity is being diminished by bootleggers. This loss of full production (e.g., a black and white DVD cover) is one of the red flags that indicates a probably bootleg. The obvious sign of a bootlegged movie is seeing it for sale before the title has even been released to theaters. It should go without saying, but some people need it to be said: the absolute best way to experience the highest quality film is in a local movie theatre.
Motivations to bootleg movies are more than just financially centered. Some studios place moratoriums on certain releases which limits the sales of the release during a set amount of time (e.g., Disney). This is often an attempt to increase sales in a short period of time by increasing demand and superficially reducing the supply. The problem comes from those who miss out on owning their own official copy and, instead of waiting, seek it from a bootlegger. Titles which are out of print or have never been released also are likely to draw the attention of bootleggers.
It is important to impede these sorts of activities for the benefit of all movie theaters of New Hampshire. The FBI and the MPAA are asking that anyone in New Hampshire with knowledge of bootlegging operations call 1-800-NO COPYS (1-800-662-6797).
The movie industry is fighting a battle far more complicated than it ever thought it would have to face from bootlegging. It has been estimated that movie bootlegging costs over $900 million and the loss of 23,000 jobs annually in New York state. Combined with DVD piracy, internet leaks and the resulting losses in production, the state can lose over $3 billion in a year.
A lot of movies have traditionally been bootlegged by an individual camcording a new movie in a theater and then producing DVD copies of the film for sale by street vendors. This costs the industry money because each cam, the resulting bootleg, only earns the price of one ticket while many are able to view the movie. Many theaters have restricted customers from bringing in baggy clothes or large bags in an attempt to thwart bootleggers, but small cameras are easier to sneak in. Ushers are now being equipped with night vision goggles to better catch bootleggers in the act of making cams. However, some movies are being bootlegged by those employees of the theater with access to the projectionist booth. An employee with this access can garner a recording with a more centered-hence higher quality-video image and audio tracks that can be lifted directly from the player.
Other means—more common these days—of bootlegging include rips and screeners, which typically create better quality reproductions. Rips are typically recordings made from officially licensed media, such as DVDs, through the use of hardware and/or software. This is a quick means of reproducing a movie and the quality tends to be high. When studios and production companies release advance copies of a movie which ends up being copied, this is called a screener (SCR). A great deal of money can be lost to SCRs when they are leaked online as movie studios often decide to amend or even cancel the production. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has endeavored to stop this practice by drafting contracts with harsh penalties for leaks. A leak to the public earned one offender a $150,000 fine for each title leaked.
Viewers themselves are being robbed of seeing the full creative vision that is ruined by a lesser quality production, according to the MPAA. It is in this way that those looking to stop bootleggers often find counterfeit versions. Another way to determine if an item is a bootleg is if it has not even been released in theaters yet. Make no mistake, even with all the advances in viewing technology, very few home experiences can outdo those found at your local movie theatre.
Bootleggers operate for different reasons and not necessarily always interested in making a profit. For example, some are seeking to counter moratoriums placed on titles by movie studios like Disney which limits official sales. This tends to raise the demand and limit the supply in a superficial manner which can add to profits for the company involved. This can create a certain amount of animosity toward the studio and result in people trying to find any copy-bootleg or not-of the affected title. Titles which are out of print or have never been released also are likely to draw the attention of bootleggers.
We all need to pitch in to stop these activities that are harming movie theaters. Residents of New Hampshire are asked to contact 1-800-NO COPYS (1-800-662-6797) if they observe acts of bootlegging.