RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Date night at the movies, but it's not a cheap proposition anymore. Tickets to first-run films run almost $10 a pop, and matinees aren't that much cheaper. But there are people willing to sell you first-run entertainment at a bargain basement price.
An ad on Richmond's Craigslist: The seller is promising good quality DVD's of new movies, still in theatres. Titles like, "New Moon," "2012," and "Precious" -- films that won't officially come out on DVD for months. The price? $5 per movie -- or five DVD's for $20.
Our contact with this boot-legger begins through a series of text messages... We start with - "I'd like to buy some movies...can you send me a list to..."
After we get a list - we ask: "can I meet you somewhere?"
He responds - "I'm near the train station on Staples Mill."
We agree on a shopping center parking lot - and text back: "k, be there in 20."
We're in the parking lot, our contact sends this text: "that you in the truck?"
With an undercover camera, a Channel 12 producer makes his way to the bootlegger's trunk.
"I wanted New Moon and 2012. And there was something else too... Precious. Hold on."
Just like that – a deal is done.
Remember the great quality our bootlegger promised in his ad? Well, these DVDs were clearly shot by a camcorder in a local theatre. At one point, you can even see someone down near the front of the theatre stand-up and leave.
At the new Bow Tie Cinemas in Richmond, ushers check the auditoriums every 20 minutes or so -- looking for just such problems.
"We're checking the theatres anyway to make sure the film presentation is good -- no one is on their cell phones -- but obviously, as part of that -- we're also looking to make sure nobody is taping the film," and usher said.
And the penalties for bootlegging are steep.
"Those warnings that you see at the beginning of DVDs that we try to fast forward through, they mean it. These are serious crimes that carry up to 5 years in prison."
And ask anybody in the movie business -- from big time movie producers to the ticket taker at your favorite theatre -- and they'll tell you, this is not a victimless crime.
"It costs the industry billions of dollars a year, which costs lots of people jobs. It has a large impact on many, many people."