Movies: Hollywood Robbery

How does a hit movie go from the free market to the black market? TIME retraces the trail

Studio executives, no strangers to melodrama, have begun to talk about movie piracy the way FBI agents talk about terrorism: they watch the Web for "chatter," they embed films with hidden "fingerprints," and they speak without irony about "changing hearts and minds." They even use night-vision goggles. It's not going too far to say they are completely paranoid, which doesn't mean they are wrong.

On the night of Nov. 29, Warner Bros. transformed more than 500 American theaters into secure compounds for a sneak preview of The Last Samurai. The $140 million Tom Cruise vehicle, designed to transport the star...

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