Movie Studio’s Think Tank Poorly Managed

The think tank being referred to is Motion Picture Laboratories Inc. (aka Movie Labs), which was established by the big six movie studios with the objective of getting a solution to movie piracy. However, over the last decade, its purpose has changed to where it is basically just tinkering around, with no clear goal or objective. It is now just another organization leaching off of the movie studios.

This conclusion was reached by reviewing how two historical and very successful think tanks were managed, and then note how the management of Movie Labs differs.

One successful think tank was the “Manhattan Project” to develop an atomic bomb. For a movie reference, watch “Fat Man & Little Boy” staring Dwight Schultz and Paul Newman. Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves was assigned to lead this project in Sept. 1942. Groves recruited J. Robert Oppenheimer as the intellectual leader in Oct. 1942. And the first atomic bomb was detonated in July 1945. This was considered a seemingly impossible task, but was completed in less than 3 years.

Another successful think tank was the British code breaking of the German enigma machine. For a movie reference, watch “The Imitation Game” staring Benedict Cumberbatch. Alan Turning was brought in to the project in July 1939. Shortly afterwards, with the support from the highest levels (Winston Churchill and MI-6), he was appointed the leader and received the resources that were required. The code was broken around Feb. 1942. So another seemingly impossible task was completed in less than 3 years.

Neither, the Manhattan Project or the Code Breaking Project, were simple or easy. In fact both of these projects had all kinds of problems, obstacles and set-backs. However, amazing things happened when the right intellectual leaders got the support and resources required. With both Oppenheimer and Turning, they believed that the task was possible. They began by first fully understanding the problem, then working out a strategy, an approach, a direction, a “PLAN”. Once they had a plan, they determined what resources were needed. These people received support from the highest levels that not only provided the necessary resources, but also cleared away obstacles. Also, all the major leaders understood the importance and urgency of the projects, and they didn’t accept the notion of something being impossible.

In comparison, the studios decided to establish Movie Labs as a think tank back in Sept. 2005, Steve Weinstein was brought in July 2006 till Dec. 2012, and then John Carney was brought in April 2013 and has recently left. Over 9½ years and the studios are no closer to a solution than when they started. It seems pretty clear that neither of their two previous Presidents knew where to start, didn’t have a plan, and therefore also had no clue as to what resources are needed. Instead, with nothing more than the enticement of a possible grant, they are waiting for somebody to come in and just hand their ideas or Intellectual Property over to them. For an industry with such serious security problems, and a think tank that shows little understanding or concern about security, it would be simply ridiculous to just trust anyone there with something as valuable as a solution to movie piracy.

As for administrative support, the studios have been financing Movie Labs, even though nobody has a plan, and hence no idea of what is really needed. This funding has instead been wasted on things like salaries & office expenses for employees with no real direction, silly open science fairs, and grants to people who also don’t understand the security issues around the problem.

Both of the previous Presidents were informed that a solution to movie piracy was possible, and how with their help, the movie studios could get it. They were both informed that the solution was fragile, sensitive, and that the need for proper security was extremely important. However they both chose to answer their opportunity with silence. See the press release “Gorillas in the midst”.

Another problem with the management of Movie Labs is that their board members can have conflicts of interest, and fail to disclose them to the other studios. I had informed one person who was a previous board member that part of the solution to movie piracy included a new and unique process to track where and when a movie had been pirated, and that this new process is presently undetectable. However this person informed me that they had no interest in something like this. Coincidentally this person is listed on a patent for watermarking (an inferior process), and which also happens to be owned by Warner Bros.

Besides the wasted millions on funding Movie Labs, consider the wasted BILLIONS caused by movie piracy, while the industry is lead to believe that Movie Labs is open-minded and actively working on a solution – when they aren’t.

Thanks to people like Steve Weinstein and others in the industry, claiming that something is “impossible” or “can’t be done” has somehow unfortunately become acceptable. This should be more than enough to explain why he couldn’t get a solution when he headed Movie Labs for over 6½ years. He is definitely no Robert Oppenheimer or Alan Turning.

The movie studios certainly have the right to take a “Do It Yourself” approach to solving this problem, and using a think tank is a good idea – provided that it is done right.

Sometimes there are other options. When time is a factor and you are dealing with a major multi-billion dollar problem that affects millions of peoples’ livelihood, then consulting with an expert that already has a workable solution would also be a good idea.

Glenn Stencell is an Intellectual Property Protection Expert who is a specialist in the movie industry, and has a workable solution to movie piracy. He can be reached at

© 2015, Glenn Stencell. All rights reserved. 2015