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‘Star Wars’ viewer cited

David Mirhadi

Although he says he was just taking digital pictures of the movie screen, a North San Juan man was arrested and cited by police this week on suspicion of filming “Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” at Grass Valley’s Del Oro Theatre.

Douglas Keachie, who said he is a longtime fan who has taken aerial photographs of “Star Wars” creator George Lucas’ famed Skywalker Ranch, was cited during the 3:15 p.m. Thursday showing of the “Star Wars” finale. His digital camera and the memory card used to take the pictures were confiscated during Keachie’s arrest, said Grass Valley Police Capt. Dave Remillard.

Keachie, 60, said Friday he was fully within his rights to take pictures of the movie, since he saw no signs prohibiting pictures. He said he was attempting to capture still images for a digital photography class he planned to teach this summer.

“My camera travels with me wherever I go,” said Keachie, a former photography instructor at Bitney Springs High School and, for a decade, at San Francisco’s Lowell High School.

But Del Oro Theatre co-owner Mike Getz said Keachie’s actions Thursday amount to movie piracy. Signs near the entrance to the theater clearly state that video recording devices are prohibited, he said.

“People who are (pirating films) are costing us billions of dollars a year,” Getz said of the cinema industry.

Keachie was approached by Del Oro employees after movie patrons complained of his use of the digital camera, which has a video component that Keachie said he did not use.

Keachie refused, Getz said, and only stopped snapping photos after a patron made a citizen’s arrest and detained him until police arrived at the conclusion of the movie, Getz said.

“He was very uncooperative,” Getz said of Keachie.

Keachie, in turn, said the police and Del Oro employees came at him “like stormtroopers,” the evil henchmen of the earlier “Star Wars” movies.

Keachie’s arrest comes at a critical time for the movie-making industry. Just last month, President George W. Bush signed into law the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act, which makes bringing a video camera into a theater for purposes of recording a federal offense. Pirated copies of “Revenge of the Sith” have been circulating on the Internet, which makes Keachie’s offense especially troubling, Getz said.

Remillard said it would be left to the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office to decide whether to charge Keachie with a federal offense. No decision had been made Friday.

Getz said he’s prepared to be ever-vigilant in the future should someone try to take pictures or record the movies he shows.

“We share the concern with the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners that if we catch anybody else doing this, we’ll treat them the same way.”

Keachie, who remembers taking his young daughter to the premiere of “Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope” in 1977, said he’d like to forget Thursday’s altercation.

“I would like to make nice with these people,” he said. “There was no intention to take money away from them or ‘Saint’ Lucas,” he said. “This has definitely ripped up my life for the last 24 hours or so.”


To contact staff writer David Mirhadi, e-mail davidm@theunion.com or call 477-4229.

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