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Cinema chain bans laptops, tablets

Maybe mobile phones too, soon

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Cinema chain Vue is deciding whether to ban mobile phones from its venues, having already decided that laptop computers are a no-no.

The Ts&Cs Vue imposes on anyone entering its cinemas - nothing odd there; all entertainment venues have these - forbids punters from taking "sound and video recording equipment" into the auditorium. Vue reserves the right to search visitors to prevent them from sneaking such kit in.

Again, that's not uncommon. It's how cinemas can be seen to be trying to fight piracy, even if they're not terribly effective. But imagine reader Dom Hodgson's surprise when staff at Vue's Leeds Light cinema refused to allow him to take his laptop in.

As Dom subsequently noted in his blog, this notebook phobia did not extend to the phone and the camera he also had in his bag - both of which contain image sensors of considerably higher resolution than the feeble webcam built into his laptop.

His iPad doesn't have a camera, but it can certainly record high-quality audio. Again, he was allowed to take that into the screening room.

Dom contacted Vue, which said that, yes, laptops are verboten, and its staff should have confiscated his iPad and camera too, for the duration of the showing.

"Laptops increasing have recording functionality and therefore this is not uncommon to ask our customers not to take them into the auditoriums and this is certainly not a new policy," the company said.

"There is obviously no excuse why the staff did not address the issue of your camera/iPad, and please be advised that I have addressed this with the General Manager at our venue in Leeds Light where I believe you attended.

"Ultimately, we adhere to this policy to protect our business from the real risk which film piracy threatens to the cinema industry," Vue said. "We try to lessen the impact to our customers by only applying the policy when the risk is high: for example, opening weekends - the bigger the film, the greater the risk - and if the UK have a release in advance of the rest of the world."

Next, the company addressed mobile phones.

"I do fully recognise your comments regarding the recording capability of mobile phones and the apparent disparity in our current policy. Please be advised that this matter is currently under review... I expect the policy to change in early October."

While Vue's concerns about piracy are understandable, it's hard to see how banning laptops - and possibly phones too - will do anything to help. Limiting the ban to certain times doesn't prevent piracy, but extending the ban to every performance will just annoy the punters, especially if they're forced to assume the position, movie style. Almost all of us now carry phones, and many carry laptops too.

Like Dom, we're not sure we trust cinema staff with our kit either. As he says, at this rate it'll soon just be easier to go home and download - which certainly won't help Vue and others cinemas any. ®

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