Friday, January 24, 2014

Chinese-owned AMC Theatres sics Homeland Security on man seen watching movie with turned-off Google Glass; agents searched his personal photos, phone

AMC Theatre photo: Camknows, Flickr
The Guardian reports that a Columbus, Ohio man was rousted from his seat by cops and Homeland Security while he was watching Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at an AMC multiplex. The man's Glass was switched off during the movie; he was wearing it for its prescription lens. Nevertheless:
     "A guy comes near my seat, shoves a badge that had some sort of a shield on it, yanks the Google Glass off my face and says 'Follow me outside immediately'," said the man, who was taken into a room for interrogation... After a long time somebody came with a laptop and an USB cable at which point he told me it was my last chance to come clean. I repeated for the hundredth time there is nothing to come clean about and this is a big misunderstanding so the [ICE officer] finally connected my Glass to the computer, downloaded all my personal photos and started going though them one by one … Then they went through my phone, and five minutes later they concluded I had done nothing wrong." He wasn't apologised to, but was offered four free movie passes, which "infuriated" him.
     The ICE's Khaalid Walls confirmed the incident took place, and AMC responded with a statement: "Movie theft is something we take very seriously, and our theatre managers contact the Motion Picture Association of America any time it's suspected that someone may be illegally recording content on screen. While we're huge fans of technology and innovation, wearing a device that has the capability to record video is not appropriate at the movie theatre."
Here's what AMC evidently does consider appropriate behavior at its theatres by its employees:
  • Making false and defamatory statements about the behavior of a customer to government agents who subsequently rifled through the private photos of said customer
  • Not bothering to assess whether a device with a recording "capability" actually was turned on before accusing someone of pirating a film by rephotographing it
  • Thinking it could buy off someone with four free movie passes after humiliating him, detaining him and invading his privacy
     AMC Theatres' 5000+ screens were purchased in 2012 by billionaire Wang Jianlan of China, which only allows about 34 foreign movies to be exhibited in its country per year.
     AMC, the headquarters of which is in Kansas City, MO, was previously owned by several private equity owners (including Mitt Romney's Bain Capital) which, according to a senior AMC executive, allowed the chain's venues to deteriorate physically relative to competitors, even forgoing changing bulbs frequently enough to ensure that exhibited features did not appear dim to audiences.

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