Low-budget horror film “The Devil Inside” made a killing (har har) on its opening weekend: $34.5 million. But that didn't stop employees at the AMC Santa Anita 16 from tattling on a man who whipped out his cellphone cam at the movie's midnight premiere.

Arcadia police showed up to the small-town Valley theater just after 1:30 a.m., where they cuffed 29-year-old Michael Johnson for violation of California's film piracy law.

Though Johnson told cops that “he was taking the footage for his wife who was home sick” …

… according to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the three minutes of evidence they found on his cellphone was a clear violation of the California Penal Code.

The law “doesn't make any type of distinction for how long they record,” says Mike Castro, watch commander for the Arcadia Police Department.

So “technically, you could record for one second,” and you'd still be breaking the law.

Johnson was released that same morning after posting $2,500 bail. But he could end up with a $5,000 fine and a maximum sentence of one year in county jail under Penal Code § 653z(a), which prohibits the use of any…

“… recording device in a motion picture theater while a motion picture is being exhibited, for the purpose of recording a theatrical motion picture and without the express written authority of the owner of the motion picture theater…”

Castro says the man's sentence won't necessarily be reduced just because he didn't record for very long, or didn't have intentions to reproduce the footage. “it would all depend on how the judge feels,” says the watch commander.

The Friday-morning arrest was new territory for cops in the small town of Arcadia.

“We haven't had a theater until recently. It's only been there a few years,” Castro explains. Plus, the law — which was passed in 2004 — is “fairly new, because of all the new miniature cameras.”

Aw. A learning experience, all around.

Funny thing: “The Devil Inside” kind of looks like it was shot on a cellphone in the first place. Johnson's meta video-of-a-video really takes that shaky “Paranormal Activity” effect to the next level. Maybe he could push the “art over copyright” angle?

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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