Muvico Washes Its Hands of ‘New Moon’ Arrest

Chain says it was enforcing its zero-tolerance policy by reporting taping of “Twilight” sequel

The movie theater that called the cops on a young woman filming bits of "New Moon" with her digital camera says it was simply enforcing its zero-tolerance policy, and will let prosecutors decide whether she should be tried for a crime.

Employees called police to the Muvico theater in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont when they spotted 22-year-old  Samantha Tumpach wielding her digital camera during a Nov. 28 screening of the "Twilight" sequel. 

She was arrested with about three minutes of "New Moon" snippets, including credits, interspersed with personal footage from her sister's birthday party, which they were celebrating at the cineplex.

Tumpach was booked on a charge of criminal use of a motion-picture facility, a Class 4 felony that carries a potential three-year prison sentence, and released on her own recognizance following a bond hearing.

Scott Slonim, chief of the public defender's office in Rolling Meadows where Tumpach's case has been assigned, told TheWrap that the state will have to prove not only that Tumpach took the footage but that she intended to put it to some illicit use — such as an established black-market business, or plans to start one — to make the charges stick. 

Slonim says he's seen no indication yet whether the Cook County states attorney's office plans to go forward with the rarely used felony piracy charge. Citing the ongoing case, the state's attorney's office declined to comment.

Tumpach is due in a Rolling Meadows, Illinois, court on Dec. 17 for a preliminary hearing that could determine whether prosecutors will pursue the charges. The movie theater, part of the Fort Lauderdale, Fl.-based Muvico theater chain, said in a statement released to TheWrap on Tuesday that they simply sounded the alarm — "It is then up to prosecutorial discretion to determine the seriousness of any charges that might be leveled."

RIghts holder Summit Entertainment declined to comment on the case Monday, but a studio insider told TheWrap that it had no intention of supporting the charges.

With the studio out of the mix and the theater chain washing its hands of the case, the decision over whether to formally charge Tumpach now resides with Cook County prosecutors.

Full text of the Muvico statement:

The unauthorized video recording of a motion picture while it is being exhibited in a movie theater is illegal under federal law and under the laws of more than forty states, including the State of Illinois. According to a study commissioned by the Motion Picture Association of America, illegal film piracy costs the movie industry billions of dollars each year, and illegal camcording in movie theaters is the source of over 90% of all illegally copied movies in their initial release form.

In order to combat the increasing theft of copyrighted films, the motion picture industry has encouraged theater owners to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy prohibiting the video or audio recording of any portion of a movie. Specifically, theater managers are instructed to alert law enforcement authorities whenever they suspect illegal activity. 

Theater managers have neither the expertise nor the authority to decide whether a crime has been committed.  Law enforcement professionals determine what laws may have been broken and what enforcement action should be taken. It is then up to prosecutorial discretion to determine the seriousness of any charges that might be leveled.

In our continuing effort to educate our guests about the illegality of film piracy, Muvico prominently places a number of posters and signs within its theaters alerting moviegoers of its “zero-tolerance” policy with respect to the camcording of films in its auditoriums.