Take it back: Just about anything you buy has a clear, easy return policy ["Movie Pirates," by Shea Serrano, March 20]. With movies, if you shell out $18 for what turns out to be a pile of doo doo, you are just out $18. I recently went to see In the Valley of Elah and hated it. In addition, the projector cut out three times during the screening, and not so much as an usher came in to say a word to us about it. When I spoke to customer service about this, she rolled her eyes and asked, "So, you're trying to get free passes?" It was as though I was the con artist in this scenario. I said, "Well, you sure as hell had better do something." A few labored sighs later, she gave me two free passes for another movie and free popcorn.
I used those passes on 30 Days of Night, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The popcorn I got was bland and tasteless, though. As I was bringing it back, I looked at the kernels, which were all white with no flavoring. I asked the gentleman behind the counter for a fresh bag. He threw my bag out and went behind the machine to get some fresh popcorn. He got into an argument with the manager. "No," I heard him say, "she didn't eat any of it and it did look unflavored. She should get another bag!" This poor minimum-wage kid was actually battling his manager in order to provide halfway decent customer service. Also, concession prices are too high, and you're not allowed to bring in outside food and drink. The lack of competition is manufactured and unapologetic.
The studios are just as bad. First off, they have been caught red-handed using fictional critics for blurbs in their movie posters. They regularly advertise movies by making them seem completely different from what they actually are, which has given rise to some hilarious YouTube videos, most notably the Top Gun and The Shining trailer re-cuts, but no other good has come of this.
My husband and I paid $18 to see The Matrix 2 and sat through that entire tripe-fest out of sheer curiosity about how the story would resolve, only to discover we would have to do the whole thing all over again. I don't think it would be wrong to purchase a pirated copy of The Matrix 3.
So, we've got our tax dollars going towards stamping out piracy. My money, against my will, is going toward protecting the interests of the movie companies, while none of it is being used to protect my interests. How is that fair?
People say, 'Well, then don't go to the movies.' But I don't see anybody telling the studios to get into a different industry and sell a product that isn't so easily pirated. Why are we responsible if the studios take advantage of us, and responsible again if someone takes advantage of the studios? It makes no sense.
Nor do I buy the argument that piracy affects the workers. The studios decide who will take the hit. It doesn't surprise me that they force the blow on those least capable of handling it, nor does it convince me at all that I should care about that horrible industry.
Online readers weigh in:
Low-down: No matter how you say it, a thief is a thief is a thief. A pirate is nothing but an electronic thief. These are pretty low people. Shame on all of the people who enable them, their buyers.
Comment by A
Stop and think: I loved the article. It made me laugh and was informative. I didn't realize the pirating business was that big. I think Brandy and Chris's attitudes pretty much encapsulate how most people who take advantage of the black market feel: "I don't really think about it, and nobody's getting hurt anyway."
The problem I have with the article is that you make people who think pirating should be legal out to be inarticulate, ignorant and unwilling to see the consequences of their actions.
Hollywood needs to stop and think about why bootlegging is so popular. Instead of spending so much effort trying to stop it, or making the punishment more harsh (a tactic which, by their own admission, is failing miserably), studios need to evolve to fit the consumers' needs, making bootlegging obsolete.
Going to the movies has always been the biggest rip-off ever. I always leave $25 poorer, thinking, next time I'll wait until Netflix has it; or, if the movie really sucked, I'll wonder how much Luke (my local bootlegger) would have charged for the DVD.
Once the technology is available, there is no backtracking. The movie industry is never going to be able to stamp out bootlegging and piracy. Instead of spending time and energy trying to convince the public that illegal downloading is bad, the industry needs to focus on how to make movies available to as many people as possible, and a good value.
Comment by Jillian
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Robb Walsh named James Beard finalist
Houston Press food writer Robb Walsh has been named a finalist in the prestigious James Beard competition, which honors print and broadcast journalists writing about food, as well as chefs, food and beverage professionals and restaurant architects and designers.
Walsh is a finalist for "Guess Who's Making Your Dinner?" a feature about local famed restaurateur Hugo Ortega and his immigrant background. The story was entered in the category of Newspaper Feature Writing About Restaurants and/or Chefs.
First-place winners will be announced in early June.