Former Movie Theater Employees Reveal The Tricks And Shady Secrets
People love going to the movie theater and watching the newest blockbuster hit. The concession stands, the ambiance, the eardrum-rattling sound systems, and everything else at the theater are loved by billions around the world. However, there are many secrets that movie theater employees won't tell you, and maybe you don't want to know. For instance, there is a reason why popcorn is so outrageously expensive. Movie theater employees will tell you that they have their share of good and bad experiences.
Most people think that movie theaters are raking it in with all of the movie tickets, but in reality, they don't make any money off of the movie tickets. Theaters make most of their money from those concessions that draw us all in.
There's a reason why movie theater popcorn is so expensive. Theaters have to share ticket revenues with movie distributors, which usually is at least eighty percent of the profits. Concession stands are owned and operated by the theater, so any profit they make will help support the theater to stay afloat.
Not So Fresh Popcorn
Most of the food at a movie theater concession stand needs to be served fresh, but popcorn is not one of them. Popcorn doesn't need to be served fresh out of the pot, and customers can't always tell how old their popcorn is.
Employees have admitted that on quiet nights, extra popcorn would be stored in trash bags and kept in the back room until anywhere between two and five days later. They heat the popcorn back up and sell it to moviegoers.
Two For One
Most movie theater employees really don't care if moviegoers want to catch a second movie after buying just one ticket. Just make sure you aren't obvious about it. It's unlikely that a worker will go out of their way to bust you.
However, if you choose a movie that is sold out, you would be taking an actual customer's seat, and you could end up getting into some trouble.
Cinemas Have Stepped Up Security
Ever since the tragic shooting at the theater showing The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012, theaters have changed how they do things. Most movie theaters across America banned midnight screenings altogether.
In addition, most movie theaters have added security cameras, and some have added more security in general. In recent years, midnight showings have begun to show signs of making a comeback.
Bring Your Own Food
Movie theater employees know more than you realize, and they know when you are trying to sneak food into the movies. The thing is that they really just don't care, as long as you are sneaky about it. If they see it, they will have to ask you to take the food outside.
Most people are smart enough to just put the food in their purses, bags, or jacket pockets, but some go a little further. Some ridiculous methods that employees have seen are people stuffing baggy clothes, faking a pregnancy, and even filling an empty baby car seat.
Movie Theater Cup Holders
Oftentimes, the simplest innovations can make a whole world of difference. For example, it took more than half a century before a very necessary change was made in movie theaters.
The first movie theater seats that came equipped with cup holders didn't appear in theaters until 1981. The first movie theater was established in 1905, which meant it was a long time for people to have nowhere to place their drinks while watching a movie.
Movie theater employees work very hard and do several different jobs during their shifts. They also enjoy some great perks, such as getting to screen all movies for free before they are available to the public.
They also usually get to enjoy some free popcorn and snacks. It's important to regularly test the projector and sound systems without a real audience to make sure there isn't any maintenance needed.
Big Sound, Big Consequences
According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, the noise levels in some theaters may leave moviegoers at risk for future hearing problems. Showing action movies, in particular, can contribute to the hearing loss of audience members and can leave them with their ears ringing.
It's a similar feeling a person gets after attending a loud rock concert. Obviously, one movie won't make someone go deaf, but repeated exposure to high decibel sound systems can wear down hearing over time.
Are Combos Really A Deal
Going to see your favorite movie in the theater can end up being very expensive, especially if you visit the concessions. They advertise that buying combos will save you a lot of money, but in reality, most food and drink combos don't actually save you any money.
The only benefit the combos typically offer is the convenient box that keeps everything together. If you actually do the math, you are spending the same as if you bought everything separately.
Employees used to take advantage of the hours when theaters weren't in use and would play x-box video games on the big screen. That would be a dream for video game players; to play on a screen that large.
However, as a result of constantly changing theater and projector technologies, it is too difficult to set up gaming consoles on movie screens, but some employees still find a way.
Crying For Your Money Back
If you pay for a movie and end up in the same theater with a screaming infant, rambunctious toddlers, or a group of unruly teenagers, make sure to say something. We have all been in a movie theater and had a crying baby near us.
If you complain to someone, there's a good chance you'll be able to get a refund or a free pass for another day. Most employees and managers care about the customers' experience as they want you to come back, so talk to them, and be polite while doing so.
Pirates Walk The Plank
Most movie theater employees will let minor infractions slide, such as bringing outside food into the movie, sneaking into a second movie, and sneaking into R-rated movies. However, piracy is not accepted at all.
If an employee catches you with a camera in the theater or filming a movie on your phone, they will not hesitate to call the police and have you arrested. Up until not that long ago, the MPAA gave theaters a five hundred dollar reward for foiling the attempts of anyone trying to record a movie.
Independent Films Are Finding The Big Screen
Of course, everyone loves high-budget action or adventure hits, but the rise of the digital camera has simplified the process of making a quality movie.
It has opened the creative doors to low-budget independent filmmakers interested in making films that are more focused on powerful storylines instead of the bigger movie studio productions centered around intense, and sometimes overwhelming, special effects. More independent films are being shown in movie theaters today.
The Unexpected Clean-Up
Movie theater employees often have to clean up unexpected messes. Some moms bring their babies to the movies, and then when the baby's diaper needs to be changed, they just change it right there.
Even worse, some moms throw dirty diapers under the seat instead of putting them in the garbage. That means employees have to clean up dirty diapers along with spilled popcorn.
That Amazing Smell
Do you ever wonder how the whole theater smells of the delicious buttered popcorn? Movie theaters actually have special techniques to make sure that the buttery, irresistible scent encompasses every single area of a movie theater.
One trick is that they include using a mixture of coconut and canola oil when popping the popcorn. They also use special vents in the popper to encourage the smell to spread.
Leave Your Trash In Plain Sight
Movie theater employees really appreciate it when people throw their own garbage into the garbage cans. However, if you aren't going to throw your garbage away, at least leave the garbage within view.
By leaving a half-eaten box of popcorn and an empty cup under your seat, you are making employees' jobs harder than they need to be. The best option is to stop being lazy and throw away your own trash.
Movie theaters scam moviegoers when it comes to concessions. Sources have reported that an ounce of movie theater popcorn costs more than an ounce of quality steak from a fancy restaurant.
Popcorn at the movie theater is roughly eight times more expensive than it is at the grocery store. The candy is way overpriced as well, so it's not a bad idea to refrain from buying food from the concessions.
Theater Cleanliness Will Have You Floored
Movie theater rooms are cleaned in between showings, but the workers only have a few minutes to clean up before people start coming in for the next showing.
Oftentimes, several movies will finish at the same time and only leave the workers with enough time to quickly pick up some trash and maybe sweep the floors. At the end of the night, the floors are cleaned and mopped properly.
Even though movie theaters have the most up-to-date technology, mistakes do still sometimes happen. Most of the time, it happens due to human error, and they aren't a huge deal. However, it is a big deal if the previews are catered to adults and are shown before a kids' movie.
For example, in 2018, Australian school students and their parents got something they weren't expecting. They went to a screening of Peter Rabbit, but because of a mix-up, a trailer for the R-rated horror movie Hereditary played for the Peter Rabbit audience. "Parents were yelling at the projectionist to stop, covering their kids' eyes and ears, some even fleeing the theater altogether." ------ Anonymous spectator.
Thirty Minutes Or Less
We have all been to a movie theater and realized pretty quickly that we had picked the wrong movie to go to. Well, if you have seen less than thirty minutes of a film and are unsatisfied at the half-hour mark, ask for the manager.
There is a good chance that if you speak with a manager nicely, they will give you a refund to see a different movie. However, don't bother talking to an employee because there is nothing they can do for you.
It All Ads Ups
I'm sure you have noticed that more and more ads and commercials have been playing before the previews even start. The reason they are now showing a lot of ads and commercials is that theaters are doing everything they can to make money outside of ticket sales.
Every year, revenue from ads increases by ten to fifteen percent. They might annoy you, but chances are they are keeping the theater open and running.
Years ago, there had to be a person in the projection booth to run the movies, but today, everything is run electronically. The projectors are turned on and programmed in the mornings.
They are loaded with the daily schedule of movies, previews, commercials, and ads, and then they are ready without someone needing to be in the booth. Digital projectors are expensive, but they allow theaters to play movies from digital filmmakers.
Movie Theaters Selling Alcohol
Movie theaters are always looking for new ways to make more money, and one of the latest trends is selling alcohol to people over twenty-one years old. Theaters such as Arclight Cinemas and certain AMC locations have already started offering twenty-one and up screenings, complete with a full bar.
More than seventy percent of movie theater guests are over twenty-one, and serving alcohol almost always increases food and beverage revenue.
Popcorn Was Popularized After WWII
Popcorn has been enjoyed as a snack for many years; even served in movie theaters before you could see feature films. It didn't actually become a true staple of American cinema until sugar rations during WWII forced American moviegoers to search for a substitute for candy, which was a temporary commodity.
The sugar returned to normal after the war, and candy returned to concession stands. Popcorn had already left its mark and was in the theaters to stay.
Complain To Corporate
Some believe that each movie theater should use feedback and suggestions from their own audience to determine which movies they screen, but it's actually not up to them. It is up to corporate unless the theater is a privately-run business.
So, if you have any complaints or requests, your best bet is to go to the corporate offices. You are wasting your time by complaining to the workers as they have no control over really anything at the theater.
Maybe Pass On The Pretzels
There are certain snacks at movie theaters that workers say you should avoid. One of those snacks that should be avoided is pretzels and cheese. The process of keeping the pretzels warm also dries them out very fast, leaving you with a crispy pretzel.
Usually, if your pretzel isn't to your liking, an employee will get you a fresh one. The cheese is extremely unhealthy as well, but people seem to just melt at the thought of eating the warm and salty treat.
Don't Be That Person
Some people really like to push the boundaries at movie theaters, but it's important to know when enough is enough. Certain infractions can get you blacklisted and unable to come back to the theater.
One of the surest ways to get blacklisted is to get caught filming the movie. Other ways are multiple attempts to scam the theater, inappropriate behavior, or funny business with a significant other.
Better Late Than Never
When you are going to the movie theater, it's a good idea to try and be on time. However, while every movie you see will typically end at the time it is supposed to, they will usually start later than stated.
They end right on time so that employees have time to clean as much as possible before the next showing. They start late to ensure that every audience member is seated and comfortable just in time to see the advertisements and previews.
You Really Aren't As Sneaky As You Think You Are
Kids often think they are being really sneaky when they buy a ticket for a PG or PG-13 movie but then slip into the R-rated movie instead. Most theater workers state that as long as it doesn't put their jobs at risk, it really doesn't bother them.
Regardless, they know what you are doing, so like everything else, if you don't make it obvious, then they will usually let it slide.
Put Your Gum In The Garbage
There is nothing worse than sitting down in your chair and seeing or feeling someone else's old gum on your seat. So many people will want to get rid of their gum but not want to get up and find a garbage can.
Instead, they stick it under their seat or table, and some just throw it on the floor. The bad part is that no one actually cleans that up unless upper management sees it and specifically asks them to.
Friends Get In Free
Most movie theater employees are allowed to give out a couple of free tickets to their friends. They quickly become the most popular kid in their group of friends.
However, some theaters have stricter policies regarding giving out free tickets to friends and family. Especially if it is a small independent theater, one probably shouldn't expect free entry. The employee will also be limited to one or two free tickets.
Is It Really Butter?
We all love that buttery popcorn at the movie theater, but something most people don't realize is that the butter isn't actually butter at all. Stacey Ballis for My Recipes said, "a one-two punch of artificial flavoring gives movie theater popcorn the illusion of being super buttery." Ballis learned to make movie theater popcorn while in college and said that Flavacol and Butter Flavored Topping are the two main ingredients.
The "so-called butter" doesn't have any real butter in it. Ballis stated that it has "partially hydrogenated soybean oil (a.k.a. trans fats), beta carotene (a coloring, makes carrots orange), tertiary butylhydroquinone or TBHQ (a synthetic preservative that keeps the color and texture from changing as the product sits), polydimethylsiloxane (a silicone-based chemical that prevents foaming), and, wait for it, buttery flavoring."
Digital Projectors Have Ran Small Theaters To The Ground
Digital projectors are a double-edged sword for the movie business. Digital filmmaking as a whole has made the cost of producing a movie drop significantly.
However, the small, charming theaters around the world have been on the other side of that because projectors are very expensive. The smaller theaters can't afford the new projectors, and most have completely gone out of business.
The Best Movie Experience
If you want the best movie experience, employees and experts suggest that you sit about two-thirds of the way back and as close to the center as possible. Most theaters have stadium seating now, where the rows are arranged on a series of terraces or steps.
This means that each row sits higher and allows one to listen to the sounds properly. Sitting one or two seats from the exact center of the row is the best because the right and left speakers are equalized for the center.
3D Glasses Might Land You With A Queasy Stomach
3D glasses have come and gone in movie theaters over the decades. Modern audiences got their first try at 3D glasses with the release of Avatar. Since then, 3D screenings have remained prevalent in theaters across the country.
Popularity has dwindled, though, partially because it increases ticket prices, and the glasses aren't the most comfortable things to wear. Many also get sick from wearing the glasses because the characters pop out at you, which sends signals to your brain that your body is moving. It could leave more sensitive individuals with a bad case of nausea.
Texting Rules Are Changing
Today, cell phones are basically attached to people at all times, and typically in the theater, before the movie starts, the seating area is lit by phones. There is typically a PSA that urges people to silence or put away their phones before the movie starts.
There are always a few people that ignore the message to put their phones away and annoy the people sitting around them. Some movie theater chains have given up and have introduced experimental open texting policies.
Celebs Seeing Their Own Movies
It is not unheard of to see celebrities at the theater watching their own movies. There have been several huge movie stars that have been seen at a showing of their movies at regular movie theaters.
Some of those stars are Brad Pitt, Gal Gadot, and Will Smith. There was one time when Shia LaBeouf, an American actor, set up a public marathon featuring every single one of his movie appearances. Not sure if they just want to see the audiences' reactions to the film or if they legitimately want to watch the movie.
No Option For No Butter
When you buy popcorn at the movie theater, you can always ask for no butter. However, just know that there will still be butter because movie theater popcorn is all pre-buttered.
So when moviegoers ask for no butter on their popcorn, the workers just nod and smile and hand them a bag of popcorn that undoubtedly has butter on it. Movie theater popcorn is actually one of the unhealthiest snacks you can eat.
Christmas Is The Worst Day To Be At The Theater
Movie theater employees will tell you that Christmas is the worst day to be at the movie theater. It's actually fairly busy on Christmas, and none of the workers are happy to be there as they would much rather be at home with their friends and family.
"I worked at a movie theater on Christmas day when I was 16. It was terrible. It was super busy all day, ended up having to work an extra 2 hours, and all the employees were in shitty moods." ----- Movie Theater Employee.
Popcorn Machines Do Not Get Cleaned
Another part of the theater that is extremely dirty is the popcorn maker. Many employees have stated that the popcorn machine never gets cleaned. "All we do is take a dry brush that we leave right on the counter, sometimes on the floor, and just scrape the oil off the bottom, yeah, never washed.
Leftover residue, oil, and flies just get pushed around and baked right onto the bottom where the popcorn touches. That's movie theater flavor you're tasting." ----- Employee, Taylor.
Employees Love When It's Not Busy, But Also Hate When It's Slow
Employees have a love-hate relationship with the theater being busy. They have said that they like having a break in between rushes or on the weekends when nothing big has come out.
However, they have said that they get bored quickly, so it's better when it's busy to make the time go by faster. When it's too busy, they get a little flustered, so they really just want it to be steady.
People Actually Do Try And Get Frisky In The Cinema
It isn't just a cliché; people do actually try and get frisky in movie theaters. It happens more than people realize. Some employees have said that they have had to kick people out monthly for engaging in sexual activity.
One employee stated that it is often in the weirdest films, such as during a Pixar film. The employees know that people are getting handsy, and most of the time, they just don't care. The only time they do anything about it is if someone complains.
If They Tell You The Ice Blast Machine Is Broken, It's Really Broken
Another big issue movie theaters have to deal with are slushy machines. "The slushy machines really do break that often. Most of them are old and rarely get replaced.
Sometimes the syrup doesn't get replaced fast enough, usually when the theater is busy, and it just takes a while for the machine to freeze the liquid into its slush form." ----- Anonymous.
Employees Decide Who Gets Kicked Out
Movie theater employees claim to have the power to remove whoever they please from the cinema if someone has made a complaint. So, when people are being noisy and disruptive, employees can ask them to leave.
However, most of the time, they will just talk to the person and ask them to be respectful. They are especially unlikely to kick out a mom and her little ones, even if they are bothering everyone in the theater.
Yes, Employees Do Get To Watch Films For Free
Movie theater employees do get some pretty awesome perks like free tickets for friends and family and getting to play Xbox on the big screen. Often, the workers will get to watch movies for free and enjoy popcorn and snacks on their breaks.
Also, workers sometimes get to preview movies before audiences even get to watch them. In addition, workers are provided with free movie passes to use later.
They Keep A Strict Inventory
Movie theater employees have to take a very good inventory at the end of every shift. Theater owners want all of their inventory accounted for. "They take their inventory way too seriously. When working concessions, you'd be given a sleeve of 25 cups.
You had to count them all out at the start of your shift and notify management if any were missing from the sleeve. Then, all your cups would be counted at the end of your shift and matched to what you sold. All of the paper products were treated like gold." ----- Anonymous.
Some moviegoers have intense reactions to movies. There are many documented cases of sensitive viewers fainting from what they saw. An example was during a showing of the horror film, Raw.
It caused many viewers to faint at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. One gentleman hit his head against the wall when he fainted. Another film that caused multiple viewers to faint was the James Franco drama, 127 Hours.
Fights Aren't Uncommon At Movie Theaters
Many employees have stated that they have had to break up fights during movies. For some reason, fights seem to happen in movie theaters on a fairly regular basis. People get on each other's nerves, and it just escalates.
There are hours upon hours of videos on YouTube of movie theater fights. Fights break out for reasons such as someone putting their feet on someone else's seat, taking someone's parking spot, someone talking, and so many other reasons.
Theaters are constantly trying to make moviegoers' experiences better. Many theaters are now putting in reclining chairs, some allow you to order from your seat, and some are making sound improvements.
Some theaters allow you to order full meals instead of just snacks, they offer high-resolution images on a larger-than-normal screen, and some are even installing full luxurious chairs with ottomans.