Movie Theater Secrets

April 19, 2017

We found this article on another site, Fashion Beans, and thought we would share some of the inside secrets from movie theater employees. While we wouldn't call them shocking, we would say a few are a bit troubling. We will definitely look the other way when ever we see some one with their hand in the popcorn bucket for an extended period of time.

 

Movie Theater Employees Spill The Dirty Details Behind The Scenes

 

Who doesn't get a little nostalgic thinking about going to the movies? Since moving pictures came on the scene, the cinema has provided an escape during wartime and economic crises, background imagery for underage make outs, and a place where your mom can drop you off a strategic distance away from the entrance before you're old enough to hang out anywhere else on a Friday night.

 

Ever wonder what it's like on the other side? How do movie theaters function in the lives of the ticket sellers, the people working the concession stands, and those who sweep the aisles? Do they get all the popcorn they want? Can they watch any movie for free? Is the magic still there once they've had to clean ejaculate off a seat?

 

 

The Popcorn May Not Be What You Think It Is

 

Is going to the movies really going to the movies without a bucket of butter-drenched popped corn to crunch through during previews? Many say it isn't. But beware: you may not be getting what you ask for.

 

First, your popcorn may be old, even if they tell you it isn't. Trey*, now 29, worked in a theater throughout high school and college. He says: "At the end of the night, we would store all of the unsold popcorn in garbage bags. The next day, for the opening shift, we were instructed to serve the day-old popcorn to customers. We had to pretend it was fresh. Eventually, we learned garbage bags have pesticides." (Regardless, Trey says he "never, ever got sick of the popcorn.")

 

To add insult to injury, asking how you want your popcorn may just be a formality. "The concession workers will ask you if you want butter on your popcorn but...when they cook the popcorn in the back they pour butter on it already," says Laura, who worked as an usher and in the box office for six years in Memphis, Tennessee. "So even if you don't want butter to 'save calories,' you are still getting butter."

 

Oh, and about that "butter"? According to James, who worked at a theater in Fort Smith, Arkansas, for 13 months from the summer of '99 to 2000, it's "just butter-flavored oil."

 
 

They Hate When You Order Plain Popcorn

 

If you don't want to be considered a bit of a monster by the staff, please, just eat the popcorn the way it comes: pre-buttered (or "buttered") and pre-salted.

 

Daniel Dockery tells Cracked that he worked "five awful months of my life working the concession stand at a movie theater"—months that, he says, killed so much of the theater magic he'd once enjoyed as a child that it was equivalent to "retroactively destroying Santa Claus for myself." Ish just got real! Go on, Daniel.

 

As he puts it: "When you get an order for unsalted, unbuttered popcorn, you either have to find a popcorn machine that's not in use (which, on busy days, is nearly impossible) or you have to dedicate one machine at the beginning of the day to fulfilling this person's specific request."

 

He continues, in disturbing detail: "After that, you drag the sack of unsalted popcorn from the dank corner of the food storage closet that's reserved for foodstuffs no sane person would willingly consume (the Raisinets are kept here also) and wipe down the entire machine, because when someone gets picky about their popcorn, they usually end up on the extremes of pickiness. They don't want any stray traces of butter in their bland bag, and they will CSI investigate that s*** until they're satisfied that they've been given untainted concessions."

 

 

People Get Pretty Freaky In Theaters

 

This isn't exactly shocking, but...things happen in darkened rooms that offer the illusion of privacy (and the possibility of getting caught, which may be the greater thrill for some).

Whether you're a fresh young tween experiencing the first taste of freedom with bae or a wizened voyeur drawn by the prospect of an audience, the movie theater has you covered.

 

Laura offers an illustrative anecdote. As an usher, it was her responsibility to go into the theaters to count customers. Once she counted only one person, she says. "As I stood there writing down '1,' suddenly another person appeared from a bending down position. If you catch my drift."

 

And James recalls some of the more memorable items they found in the theater—"empty liquor bottles, empty lotion bottles, popcorn tubs with a hole in the bottom (use your imagination)."

 

A few times, he says, they found evidence that left less to the imagination. One time in particular stands out. "We had a professional cleaning crew every night, so they [cleaned] it," James says. "We just covered the seat with a bag in the meantime."

 

Curious which movie inspired the kind of release requiring a cleanup crew? "Pretty sure it was Where the Heart Is," James says. We love Ashley Judd and Natalie Portman too!

 

 

Movie Theater Employees Enjoy Some Sweet (And Kind Of Creepy) Perks

 

Lindy, 27, worked at a Conway, Arkansas, theater "back in high school when they still used actual film projectors." Some highlights from her time working there include a Halloween staff meeting where they put the film to King Kong in upside down and played the audio backwards for an effect that was "actually kinda creepy"; being allowed to take home a King Kong cardboard cutout that took up half of her parents' living room; free movies, popcorns, and drinks ("as long as I brought my own cup"); and, getting to choose any movie poster as a going-away souvenir when she quit ("I chose the poster for Walk the Line").

 

Another time, she and a few friends snuck in an entire 30-pack of beer to watch Chicken Little ("The workers knew; we were mostly trying to hide it from the paying customers. I let my coworker know which trash can we threw the empty cans in so he could dispose of the evidence before the movie was over.").

 

Some employees enjoyed slightly less innocent advantages. "The theater kept a close eye on inventory in order to prevent theft," Trey says. "Some of the less scrupulous employees would take used popcorn bags and cups out of the trash, put fresh popcorn and soft drinks in the dirty bags and cups, and pocket the cash. Management had no idea because the money matched the inventory."

 

And Laura remembers one of her coworkers who, when female customers asked for free tickets, would request to be flashed in exchange. "He only got rejected once," she says.

 

 

Concessions Are Overpriced For A Reason (And Stop Complaining, Ya Dope)

 

This is weird and funny, but apparently many people assume that movie theater employees are personally responsible for and/or receiving major kickbacks from the high costs of snacks and drinks.

 

If you don't know this already, we're a little perplexed, but: movie theater employees aren't raking in the big bucks. As one employee puts it to People, "Someone asked me recently how I sleep at night, charging people so much. Yeah, I sleep on my giant pile of money that I get for being an assistant manager at a movie theater."

 

And, just as servers in some states who make a scandalously low $2.13 an hour are not responsible for the (corrupt) tipping culture that they nevertheless rely on to make living wages, movie theater employees are not responsible for the high concession costs. "Did you know, on average, movie theaters only make a dollar per ticket sold?" Shawn Binder, who spent some time before college working at his local theater, asks Thought Catalog readers.

 

"The rest of the $14 dollars (depending on where you live) usually goes directly back to the movie distributing company. That is why your concessions are expensive as f***, that is how they keep their doors open. It is not the movie theater worker’s fault the prices are so expensive, so please forgive us."

 

But are you sure, Shawn? We really enjoy our whipping boys.

 

According to an article from Reader's Digest with sources based in California, Illinois, and Indiana, his account checks out: "For the first month or two of screening, money from ticket sales goes to movie studios. Theaters rely on concession stands to make money. That’s why concessions are overpriced. Popcorn costs almost nothing to make." Fine, Shawn. Have it your way.

 

 

But You May Be Able To Get Away With Bringing Your Own Snacks

 

We've all been there: you want to enjoy the ancient tradition of Eating While Watching A Big Screen but you don't want to pay $12 for popcorn. That's fair! Why not seethe privately and smuggle in your own box of goodies?

 

The general consensus among movie theater employees seems to be that they don't personally care, as long as you don't make it obvious, especially in front of their managers.

 

Five years ago on jobstr.com (platform tagline: "Ask people anything about their jobs"), user Mila asked, "Can you bring in outside drinks to a movie? They used to be strict about that and actually go through your bag, but I feel like I haven't been hassled about it in years."

 

The answer comes from a then-21-year-old movie theater employee from the Boston area: "I think that's about right. We did use to care but now we don't even have the sign that tells people not to bring food anymore. A new manager might be adamant about it but gives up soon after. I think we only mind when you bring in something ridiculous like a shopping cart like this only lady did. I brought a box of pizza once. But I don't suggest you do that."

 

So to recap: no shopping carts, probably no entire pizzas. Easy enough.

 

 

Shockingly, People Are Still Inconsiderate

 

Among all of the truly bizarre ways theater patrons assault the senses of employees every day, we take some comfort in the knowledge that people are still rude in plenty of totally mundane ways, too.

 

Deflecting responsibility for your poor decision-making onto others feels familiar. Some popular stories include parents asking for refunds because the R-rated film they took their child to is too upsetting, and parents allowing their little ones to "trash" the aisles, only to leave the mess for theater employees. Charming!

 

Customers' capacity for good old-fashioned snubbing remains strong as well. One movie theater employee tells People about the time that "this man just threw a popcorn bag at me to refill, made zero eye contact and said ‘butter.'"

 

At least some things never change.

 

 

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September 21, 2018

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