The film industry is on high alert for criminals trying to illegally record the new James Bond flick and post it on the internet, an expert has warned.
Cinemas are expected to beef up their security in a crackdown on scammers sneakily filming the new 007 blockbuster when it hits the big screen next month.
Movie pirates are resorting to increasingly clandestine tactics to avoid being caught, hiding their recording devices in holes cut into popcorn cartons.
But Kieron Sharp, director general of the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), which tackles piracy, said staff kitted out in night-vision goggles are patrolling cinemas to catch anyone trying to make illegal recordings.
He said: “The bigger the film and the more anticipated it is, the higher risk it is. We have staff on extra alert for that.
“James Bond is a big risk and we will be working with cinema operators and the distributors making sure we will keep that as tight as possible. We really don’t want to see that recorded.
“They are on alert, particularly with the bigger films like James Bond, to really drill down to who is in the auditorium and who might possibly be recording.
“They still do the sweeps around the auditoriums with the night vision glasses regardless of the film. But sometimes extra security is put in place for things like Bond.”
Directed by Sam Mendes, Spectre is expected to be one of the biggest box office hits of the year.
Mr Sharp’s warning came after a man, 33, was arrested in Nottinghamshire for allegedly filming American Ultra and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials at the cinema.
He said most movie pirates are young men who compete with each other for the dubious honour of being the first to record and upload the film online.
So action movies such as the Fast And Furious franchise or James Bond are particular targets.
Mr Sharp said: “You also have to look at certain films in terms of their interest to certain demographics of the population as well.
“So films like the Fast And Furious series is always very, very risky - high risk to us in terms of protecting that film in the cinema.”
Last year Philip Danks was jailed for 33 months for filming Fast And Furious 6 in a cinema and selling copies on Facebook.
He boasted on Facebook “Seven billion people on the planet and I was the first.”
The rise of smartphones means it is easier than ever to record films. But while criminals try to use the cloak of darkness in auditoriums and clever tactics to break the law, staff use night-vision goggles to expose movie pirates.
Mr Sharp said: “The days of trying to conceal a camcorder are over. It is much easier to conceal a smartphone. They use various tricks like cutting a hole in a popcorn cup and putting it wedged in a popcorn cup.
“Sometimes we see a sock with a hole cut in it which they put over the phone so there is no shine to the phone.”
Anti-piracy teams have managed to dramatically slash the number of illegal recordings made in British cinemas since they began training cinema staff who, armed in military-style goggles, scan theatres for recorders.
But illegal cinema recordings can mean big business and must be stamped out altogether, Mr Sharp warned.
He said: “The film industry is huge to the British economy and the amount of people it employs.
“We have Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland and Harry Potter in Scotland - there are a lot of people who rely on the film industry for their livelihoods.”