Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Guards in aisles at Sione sequel

Sione's Wedding 2. Photo / Supplied
Sione's Wedding 2. Photo / Supplied

Cinema-goers will face a mobile phone ban and the scrutiny of security guards at the premiere of Sione's Wedding 2, the sequel to the hugely popular local release that was undermined by piracy problems.

Every person attending the red carpet event tomorrow will have to surrender their phones and cameras for the duration of the film to prevent illegal recordings of the movie.

The audience will also be watched by security guards in the theatre's aisles.

South Pacific Pictures head of publicity Tamar Munch said this was routine for a premiere and the strict rules were not a reaction to the piracy problems experienced when Sione's Wedding was released.

"We're not doing anything more ... that a normal premiere in New Zealand would do.

"It's pretty standard to collect cellphones and recording devices if a movie is being screened pre-release. It is more common for international releases that are playing early here.

"When we released Sione's Wedding cellphones weren't that flash ... so it wasn't a problem then. The piracy problems were with regard to somebody stealing a copy of the film from the post-production house. It was quite a separate incident."

A copy of the original film was stolen by an employee at Digital Post. DVDs of the feature were burned and sold in South Auckland markets a month before it was released in theatres. Sione's Wedding became the third-highest grossing New Zealand film, but the producers believe the theft and illegal distribution cost investors $500,000, with around $300,000 of that figure coming from lost box office sales.

The film industry is believed to lose around $70 million to piracy a year in New Zealand - around half the total box office.

Local offices of large American production houses said South Pacific's rules for the premiere were tame.

Paramount Pictures New Zealand publicist Matt Wiltens said his company had strict guestlists for pre-release showings, mobile devices and cameras were confiscated, and security guards were given night-vision cameras to watch the audience.

"It is a big undertaking, but for the sake of securing our intellectual property it's a step we need to take. Piracy is one of those things that the industry is working quite hard to stamp out.

"The film industry locally was burned quite badly with Sione's Wedding, which was obviously a huge hit here. So it's definitely a concern for the local industry too."

He said new films were released in New Zealand on Thursdays, leaving a 48-hour gap before they were shown in the United States.

"Given the big time difference, we need to be very security conscious. We could ruin the US result if anything came out of this country."

Sione's Wedding 2: Unfinished Business, written by James Griffen and Oscar Kightley, will be showing in cinemas from January 19.

- NZ Herald

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