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TOPIC: Permissions to play DVDs to public?

Permissions to play DVDs to public? 22 May 2004 14:25 #8265

  • bemily29
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Hello -
I'm working with a museum owner who has screening room space. We are looking to offer films to the general public with a dVD player and screen. I have a few movies in mind that are already out on DVD. How do i get rights to show these movies to the public? We would show the movie for free and charge for a cash bar. If i'm not charging for the movie, do i even need to get permission to show it?
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 22 May 2004 14:53 #8266

  • outaframe
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Briefly YES, and you can't!...

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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 22 May 2004 15:00 #8267

  • Larry Thomas
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Actually, you can...through non-theatricals Swank or Criterion. But you still have to pay film rental, even if you don't charge.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 22 May 2004 15:18 #8268

  • outaframe
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You can't use your DVD, or tape: you HAVE to use theirs, AND pay the licensing fee!...
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 22 May 2004 17:19 #8269

  • crshedd
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call ann at 1.800.876.3344. she is with swank in new york city. she will be extremely helpful and informative.

good luck!

'hey! there's no party here!'
jeff spicoli
fast times at ridgemont high
'hey! there's no party here!'
jeff spicoli
fast times at ridgemont high
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 24 May 2004 10:33 #8270

  • jimor
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For any titles not carried by Swank, Criterion, or others, one goes to the Copyright Clearance Office of the Library of Congress' Copyrights Offices www.LOC.gov and ask about a specific title. They are the ones that by law keep the records as to public domain status, if any, and how much and to whom to pay fees for available titles. Note that just because a title was released, does NOT mean that anyone can thereafter show it as one pleases, even if some distributor has it and says you can use it. One should always confirm with the Clearance Office any title, or at least get a document from the distributor giving you permission to show the film/tape/DVD, so that you are probably off the hook should someone threaten legal action. Some companies such as Disney won't hesistate to sue for the purpose of making an example of you, and the damages can be very high! Courts are not too sympathetic to some exhibitor saying 'but I didn't know.' Remember the old adage: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Check into it before you jump into it!
Jim R. (new E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) member: www.HistoricTheatres.org
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 24 May 2004 15:45 #8271

  • BECKWITH1
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To everyone interested in showing DVDs to the public:

Please keep several thoughts in mind. Creative people made these movies. Writers, directors, actors, and a host of little people from electricians to catering services all need to get paid for their efforts. If the distributors do not get paid for the results of these labors, they will not continue to make movies. Hence, the little people will not have jobs in the industry and we will not have product to show to an interested public. It is important to realize that we must all pay our movie bills (even though we love to hate how much we pay) to keep the system working, the films flowing and occasionally finding a film that we love.

We need to be careful ourselves in protecting our stream of product. Be vigilant about taping in your theater, book the films that you show legally and do not let others abuse the value of copyrights. I've even had people requesting a donation from us who are using an unlicensed DVD to show a Disney movie across the community pool and want door prizes of movie tickets for their fundraiser.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 24 May 2004 19:22 #8272

  • coryray
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Well writ Beckwith, well writ. In addition, since this topic seems to be coming up a great deal of late, and probably because there are many outdoor movies happening nowadays, it needs to be understood that there is a huge difference between "theatrical" and "nontheatrical" screenings of films, with "nontheatrical" the most misunderstood of the two. The majority of the time when DVD screenings are mentioned, they are in fact, "theatrical" screenings and subject to the same set of regs and licensing that every theatre comes under. Advances/Guarantees vs. percentages usually apply when a paying audience. Flat fee otherwise. And just about everything is a "Public" screening.

As for a previously named nontheatrical distributor, they'll tell you the differences between the two types, what constitutes a Public, theatrical screening vs. a private, nontheatrical showing, but will gladly take the money, even though it's clearly a Public performance. It appears their attitude is that they've done their duty explaining the differences; they're not going to police the outcome and oh well. Let the legit neighborhood theatre complain to their distribs.

I think what gets my goat more than anything, is the thinking that one can have a Big Screen experience merely by renting a DVD, throwing up a sheet, pulling out the 5.1 home gear, plugging in a smallish, designed-for-power-point-presentation digital projector, and wait for sunset to push play.

Fortunately, there are a few company's that've begun producing large screen events, where the idea is to create a first-rate presentation, in aesthetically pleasing surroundings.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 25 May 2004 11:06 #8273

  • agoodman63
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Hi,
I've been reading for awhile, but this is my first post. I'm the theatrical rep for Criterion Pictures. We DO license DVD and VHS for theatrical and non-theatrical use. We do not require that you get the material directly from us, only that it be a legal copy of the the film.

Anyone with questions can feel free to contact me at 800-890-9494 ext. 225 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Thanks,
Anne Goodman
Criterion Pictures
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 26 May 2004 00:40 #8274

  • rodeojack
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One thing that hasn't been covered in this thread, is what titles Bemily is interested in showing. There are some DVD titles that companies like Criterion & Swank might be able to license for theatrical usage. However, I have never seen anything that wasn't just about to hit video be licensed in this manner.

It might help condense this thread a lot if we knew what you were considering showing. Otherwise, speculation could add pages to this topic!
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 26 May 2004 15:49 #8275

  • mosquito
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Let me put a twist on this conversation. If I were to own a nice, smaller theater that had a good sound system, projector, and DVD player, could I simply rent out the theater and have the renter play any DVD they want? Or is that still considered a public screening? Would I be liable for licensing the video?
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 26 May 2004 17:18 #8276

  • coryray
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Mosquito, you have to give more info than that. It sounds like you're trying to circumvent paying a licensing fee, and if that's the case, nope, can't do it.

It's my understanding that the owner of the establishment/business is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on.

If someone wishes to four-wall the joint, they have to abide by the same rules as you would. That's why there's only one master licensing agreement for each theatre. John Q. can't rent a film from a distrib and throw it in anyone's theatre.

More directly to your question, If I want to throw a birthday party in your place and use your digital projector to show a DVD, I see no difference with that than throwing the party in my backyard, renting a projector, throwing up a sheet and showing whatever. Both are private events. It's when I open it up to the public at large, that causes all of the problems. And that's whether an admission is charged or not.

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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 00:21 #8277

  • rodeojack
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Sounds as close to right-on as I'd put it. The studios might have found a way to define "private showing" to no more than a specific number of non-paying viewers... but I don't know what that number would be.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 09:17 #8278

  • mosquito
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<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial, helvetica">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by coryray:
More directly to your question, If I want to throw a birthday party in your place and use your digital projector to show a DVD, I see no difference with that than throwing the party in my backyard, renting a projector, throwing up a sheet and showing whatever. Both are private events. It's when I open it up to the public at large, that causes all of the problems. And that's whether an admission is charged or not.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

So it's the fact I would be renting the theater out to people for their kids' birthday parties that makes it public, even though it's not an open door to the true public at large? If it were my kid's birthday party, it would be private, but once someone else rents out the space, it's considered public?

This is all hypothetical BTW. I own no such space, but thought it might be an interesting twist on the big screen biz. I'm not trying to circumvent any licensing...it's just that it seems to be a very gray area, so I'm looking for more definition.
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Re: Permissions to play DVDs to public? 27 May 2004 11:00 #8279

  • rodeojack
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I haven't done this, either... so I'm also on the "hypothetical" bench.

However, I think it's the purpose of renting YOUR building, as opposed to, say, a gymnasium or banquet hall somewhere that sets you up for a problem. Your place is being rented for the purpose of doing what you normally do... show movies to large audiences. Were I a studio, I'd be coming to you for answers/licenses/payment/damages, not the guy that rented your place. You're in the business. You have master licenses & relationships with the studios. You should know better.

If my kid invites half a dozen friends from school for her birthday party... and I take them to my theatre for a showing of "First-Run Whatever", I suppose a rabid studio could claim that I was violating their rules against passes on the break. Other than that, even their 1% rule would probably not kick in... and the fact that I didn't rent anything out or make any money would be in my favor. That's about as far as I could see taking this, though. In your case, you've made money because you have the ability to show somebody's movie, whether you provided it or the renter did probably wouldn't matter to the studio that owned the copyright.

Just my gut feeling... but I think they'd find a way to get you on this one...
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