Pirated DVD copies of Hulk went on sale in a small Scottish market two weeks ahead of the film's US June 20-22 opening weekend.
A copy of Hulk DVD was brandished by Spencer Mott, director of operations for anti-piracy body FACT at a Cinema Expo seminar this week titled Piracy: It Ain't Getting Better.
The UK has seen the number of seized pirated DVDs rise from 90,000 in 2001 to 330,000 in 2002, said Mott, with an estimated market value of just under £10m. Assuming a conservative 5% detection rate, this represents a potential loss of £200m.
Roger Harris, vice president and general manager, UCI cinemas UK & Ireland, said his company asked to search customers' bags for The Matrix Reloaded.
"It's not something we can legally act on," he said, "but if we notice people coming to cinemas with large bags we have politely asked if they are carrying recording equipment."
That the problem is a global one, with dissemination eased by the Internet, was made clear by Nigel Sharrocks, managing director of Warner Bros Int'l UK. He told how a camcorder-shot copy of Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, recorded from a UK screen, turned up on the internet three days after advance public screenings - and ahead of any public screening in the US.
A day after that, videos and DVDs were on sale in both the UK and the US. The screen it was shot on was eventually traced, but the same copy - identified by security markings - turned up across the world in the coming weeks.
"It was shot in conventional multiplex in a major UK city," Sharrocks said. "Being able to identify the print has galvanised the industry. Here was a clear example of a UK pirate impacting on a global scale."
The seminar also heard that pirates have successfully discovered their own production and delivery system in broadband internet - and are releasing increasingly sophisticated copies of films.
A copy of Warner's The Matrix Reloaded was being sold within a few days of the US release with a specially authored DVD menu pages and, in one instance, as a double-pack with X-Men 2.
But Veronika Kwan -Rubinek, president international distribution for Warner Bros Pictures, admitted that tackling piracy was "like putting a finger against a dam."
She pointed to the rollout of broadband, which ensures users can download movies to either watch or burn onto DVD, as a key fear. At present, only 28% of European web users and 35% in the US have it, according to NeilsenEDI figures.
"We do not want to sit round and suffer the same fate as the music industry she warned."