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The Death of the Movie Theater

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Think Pieces | August 31, 2012 | Comments ()


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When I went to see The Expendables a couple of weeks ago, it was a brilliant and warm southern California morning. With no clouds to temper it, the sun gleefully sat at exactly the right mid-morning angle to reflect off of every windshield and shiny window, plunging a cacophony of migraine daggers deep into any exposed corneas. The theater perched on the top floor of an outdoor mall, sitting in the middle of the food court. So after purchasing a ticket for the usual exorbitant rate I did the only thing any rational adult with a headache in the middle of a food court would do. I bought a cup of coffee.

Yes, you can probably guess what is coming, and roll your eyes at my idiocy. Of course one can't bring food and drink into a theater, what did you expect? See, this is exactly how they get us. They invent arbitrary rules, hold our entertainment hostage, and then every time we meekly submit because it's less of a bother we get more used to the leash.

As I walk up and hand my ticket to the teenaged girl I lift the cup to my mouth to take the first sip and am interrupted with "you can't take that in."

"Why not?"

"No outside food and drink. You'll have to finish it first." She says.

"Finish it? I just bought it, I haven't started it yet."

"I'm sorry, that's our policy." Oh, policy, those simple little three syllables that can excuse any idiocy imaginable. It's not me, I'm just following orders, you know, policy.

"Then I want the money back for my ticket."

This breaks the teenage bored employee facade, and I get the slightest hint of a stammer. "But, I can't do that."

I've moved past anger into that comfortable zone of cheerful antagonism that feels warmer than a double shot of whiskey. "I'd like to speak to a manager then." I say with a smile. There's palpable relief on her face, as I spoke the magic words that gave her the out that she should have thought of herself.

The customer service manager is a bit older, clearly a longer timer than the summer help at the door, but just gives the same answers and responses. I'm cheerful, not raising my voice in the least. Yelling at the poor bastards at the bottom rarely solves anything. Finally, they call down someone from upstairs, he doesn't even have a name tag, so he's probably the highest ranking guy on site.

The policy excuse works both ways because while it means that no one is individually responsible for the inanity of a rule, it also means that any individual employee doesn't have to make a stand on it so long as punting it to their boss is less painful than just letting the customer have his way. You can work your way up the food chain this way, until you find the poor bastard crouched with his balls pressed against the apex of that graph, the one who can't punt it higher without getting smacked, but also doesn't have the power to make his immediate subordinate deal with the problem. That's the bureaucratic sweet spot. And that's what this guy is.

"You just can't bring in outside food and drink." He explains without explaining.

"Why not?"

"It's our policy not to allow it."

"But why is it the policy?"

"It just is."

Movie theater chains have to pay ninety cents of every dollar right back to the movie studios. They don't make jackshit on the actual movies, so they've only got two recourses: raise ticket prices so that their paltry percentage yields more money and mark up fifteen cents of popcorn by a thousand percent and not let anyone bring in outside food and drink. Never mind that every time they raise the prices of those items, they sell less of them, getting sucked down into a never ending cycle of rising prices and declining actual sales.

"Look," I say, trying to take another tack since we both know the answer is very simple. "I get that you make your money on concessions so you don't like people bringing stuff in. But if that's your business model, then why did you put this theater in the middle of the mall's food court?"

"I don't know, sir. But it's still not our policy to allow outside food and drink." Ah, the party line, sweet shield of the weak in the wrong.

"Ok, so you want me to throw my coffee away, walk inside and buy whatever food and drink I want inside, right?"

"Yes."

"Do you sell coffee?" I can see the concessions menu from where we are standing, so I know this is the safe crack to pry at.

There's a long pause. "No." He admits. There's a bit more back and forth, but I've been tenacious enough that he'd rather just let me in than waste more of his time with this. The compromise? I'm given a large soda cup to pour my coffee into, because the mere sight of a logo that hasn't paid the company would be a gross indecency.

This has burned twenty minutes of time and so I stroll into The Expendables ten minutes after its slated start time. I don't have to worry though. The trailers haven't even started yet, we're still on the pre-trailer commercials. Dean Winters winks at me. Thirty minutes of commercials. A hundred minutes of movie. At least when I have to watch this many commercials on television I can do so without pants and without being arrested.

I used to love going to the movies. As a teenager I'd often go once a week: the huge screen, the trailers, the experience of watching with your friends. Now? The trailers probably were online yesterday, the TV I've got at home is proportionately just as big, and I don't have to pay extra for my friends so long as there is room on the couch and floor. And hey, at home I can make myself a fucking steak dinner for less money than a hot dog, popcorn and soda costs at the theater. And since searing a steak to a succulent medium-rare takes about eight minutes, the time investment is still less than sitting through the shit before the movie.

The only gain to seeing the movie in the theater is that you get to see it a few months before it shows up with six different DVD versions from which to choose. You pay a premium for instant gratification, but in every other comparison, watching the film at home is the better option. If your product is objectively worse than an alternative that costs significantly less, then you are going to go out of business.

To put it another way, and to really channel my inner curmudgeon, it's entirely possible that my next new review might be from prison. If I have my backpack searched by a sixteen year old usher again for rogue M&Ms under the grave pretense of customer safety, there's going to be a hostage situation.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Tom

    Yeah, this article sucks and it's exactly the sort of thing I expect from someone who won't see things from another person's point of view. I worked at a theater and not only can I attest that there are literally about 30 people a day that do the exact same thing as you, there are a couple hundred more that get in with their food/drink, but don't mind spilling it over, making a huge mess that the employees wouldn't otherwise clean up. It's not like cleaning up your kid's mess, it's like cleaning up your neighbor's kid's mess.

  • Ozpinhead

    A very well put together piece about the decline of the movie theater. I still go the the movies, but where I once used to go one or two times a week, now I'll go maybe once a month. Some of the reasons you mentioned in your article. For starters, the popcorn annoys me. It starts when you're trying to buy a ticket to watch a movie and have to endure ages on a line where ppl spend more time ordering everything but a ticket, Then there's the smell and the noise in the theater itself. And don't get me started on the cell phones...
    For these and other reasons, watching a movie at home has indeed become a better experience in some cases.

  • Anthony Hoffman

    This is the dumbest article I've read on Pajiba. You can't bring outside food in a theater. That's why they're concession stands. It's how they make money. I don't like the policy. No one does. Stop being a whiny bitch and sneak in something you can store in your rectum or vagina like the rest of us. Yeesh.

  • cham

    I hope the author gets put in the corner and stays there. so fucking annoying!!!

  • Pat C.

    I just don't bother with the food - just as I never feel a compulsion to watch a movie when I go to a restaurant. To me, they're two distinct events. And I definitely don't want a drink, because I very likely will have to go to the bathroom and miss something.

  • Jeremy Carrier

    That was one of the most childish public displays I've read in a long time. It's like going to the library and complaining about why you can't listen to music as loud as you want. Because that's how the fucking library works! Everywhere you go you make concessions to get the service or product you enjoy. You don't like it, don't go in.

  • kandor71

    Steven
    Why would you bitch about a rule you know exists?
    Because you are like most people, you think you are entitled to everything and the rest of us should just shut up and let you do what you want.

    If you don't like that you can't bring outside food/drinks to a theater that clearly doesn't allow that, then stay the fuck home, or do like the rest of us and follow the fucking rules.

    Nobody is forcing you to go to the theater, it is your own choice, so pay up or shut the fuck up, or you can do both like the rest of us.

    The world doesn't revolve around you, maybe somebody should have told you that earlier in life. That way we wouldn't have to read your pathetic rant about not bringing in a coffee to a theater.

    My 8 year old has more sense than you do.

    Grow up or shut up, hell why don't you do both.

  • mclbolton

    The stadium theaters here where I live have started inspecting women's purses! Yes , the fifteen year-old ticket taker is looking in the ladies bags - Just the women -- Of course there are letters of anger to the newspaper and most of my female friends are not going --- another nail in the coffin !!!

  • ,

    Really? I mean, I spent a day at an amusement park a couple weeks ago, and there are people at the gate who take a look inside purses (and any other bag that comes through the gate), and I'm pretty damn glad they do.

    I've told this story before but WTH: At the same park one chilly evening, I asked the gate attendant if I could go get a jacket from my car. She said sure. When I came back carrying the jacket, she said, "I have to check it." I said OK, and she did. When she finished (it took three seconds), she said, "Thanks." And I said, "No, thank YOU for helping make this a place we can come and have fun and feel safe." And she said, "You're the first person all summer who's said that to me."

  • e jerry powell

    Here, at least we have Alamo Drafthouse, which counts as legitimate cause for no outside food.

  • ,

    SLW, I like your writing and am generally on board with you, but 20 minutes giving these people the runaround while they give you the runaround? Jesus, you could have just stood there and drunk your damn coffee in 10 minutes and gone the hell to your seat in half the time. You just wanted to see who'd capitulate first. Congratulations.

    Here's where I stand on the concessions issue: Mrs. , has a big purse. That's all that needs to be said. I would kill for a theater with a restaurant and bar, and a concept like the Alamo Draft House seems like science fiction here in Noimaginationville.

    I don't seem to go to the movies much these days because while I have two 12-screen theaters three miles apart off the interstate here, the fuckers (Hollywood and Carmike) show the same 10-12 goddamn movies at both places, and they're almost never the ones I want to see, like most of the ones that get rec'd here. Something like "Bernie," for instance, or any documentary? Fuckin' forget it. I'd probably have to drive 80 miles.

    That's why I hate the theater chains.

  • I may regret this, but since I respect , and SLW here goes: the point being missed here is that SLW asked for a refund since he had forgotten about the policy and was told no. I don't understand why they wouldn't allow him to have the refund, nor do I co-sign the treatment of the staff.

  • ,

    I can't disagree. You're right, that DID get overlooked. A no-refund policy seems weird. Generally, I thought theaters would give you your money back if you didn't watch more than half the movie and found it objectionable or were forced to leave for some reason. It would be interesting to know if SLW's theater's policy extends to, say, doctors and first-responders and anyone who might get called out of the movie for an emergency.*

    Mrs. , and I asked for a refund once, because we misread the starting time of the movie we came to see, and once we realized our mistake and that we couldn't stay for the next show, we asked for our money back. It was clearly our fault, but we got a refund, with no problem.

    And thank you for the respect! I, too, respect SLW, and I can't say that I myself have never gotten into a petty power struggle in a misguided effort to make some point only I understood. Still, this seemed like a waste of everyone's time. Just drink your coffee and then go watch the movie.

    *--Heh, this has nothing to do with movies but it's my favorite refund story of all time. A guy I know was watching a girls' high school softball game, and he said one of the outfielders dived for a ball and hurt herself. Her parents were there, and they gathered her up and trundled her to the car and took her to the hospital, but not before they stopped at the gate and asked for their ticket money back.

  • Gregory Allen

    Steven, fuck yourself. You have that weird sense of entitlement that I see mostly from baby boomers these days. Your types just imagine yourselves all as these Bill Hicks/Denis Leary working-class heroes, doling out your conventional wisdom on dumb bullshit that doesn't matter. You know you're not allowed to bring outside food. If you don't, then welcome to modern civilization, the rule's about 90 years old. They don't want people bringing food from the outside when they make their profits from concessions, then have to clean up the mess that is inevitably left. Most places have signs out front, and when you buy a ticket, you're entering a contract with someone who's trying to run a business and make a profit.

    You're not the only one who tried to go into that theatre with their own food that month, week, or even day. Some goober walking in with his Taco Bell, fully planning to eat it and throw the wrapper on the floor made the same fuss, and gave the passive-aggressive "Why?" routine that we all did in Sunday School. You weren't nice. You bugged some kid making minimum, pretending like she was holding your family hostage, when you could have either just drank or thrown out your shit food court coffee. Then you pulled the managers and possibly owners and I'm assuming pompously started asking obnoxious questions that normal don't bother with because normal people know not to bring their own food, or to at least goddamned hide it.

    You didn't solve anything or start a great revolution, you just bothered a bunch of people trying to make a living. You're the same as that Youtube jack-off screaming at the shopping mall, but you just did it in a way that would seem intellectual only to a self-absorbed jackass.

  • Ariana

    I'm starting a slow clap for this comment hoping the crowd behind me will join in

  • Sirilicious

    This system is screwing both the costumer and the employee. Maybe if the managers or owners are bothered enough times, they will knock on the doors of the studios.

    Nothing ever changed by doing nothing. You may not like his tactics, but don't defend the system on the basis that it's always been this way.

  • Anthony Hoffman

    This comment wins.

  • Guest

    YES.

  • junierizzle

    I still and will always love going to the movies. Midnight screening of The Dark Knight with a packed screening is something I will never forget. The energy was amazing. A good movie is good no matter where you see it but an experience like that can only be had in person in a Theatre.

    Ive never cared about the high price of food at the Theatre. I know that's how they make their money. I either feel like buying a five dollar hot dog or I don't.

  • Ken

    This was an entertaining read, but I can't say I condone the behavior described. I spent my fair share of time making minimum wage at a multiplex on the East Coast, and I constantly got an earful from customers about food and drink policies, as if I had personally instituted them myself to be a spiteful prick. I will say though, that a reply of "It's just our policy" is bullshit. I would always explain to people that concessions was the way our theater made money, and to allow competing food to be brought in would be bad for business. I saw no point in not being truthful about it.

    Also, cleaning up greasy popcorn bags and spilled sodas sucks, but gathering the remnants of rancid, half-eaten, KFC family-sized meals strewn about theater floors sucks even worse.

    Luckily now I live in the "cesspool" called California (thanks Aaron Schulz, ass) where there are some great theaters with good coffee, assigned seating and fairly respectful clientele. Seeing "Cabin in the Woods" opening weekend in a packed house couldn't have been replicated at home.

  • Lars

    Speaking as someone who is about to go leave to clean movie theaters in a theater where 90% of those at door aren't going to say anything about outside food, this is highly pretentious and obnoxious.

    I can't begin to tell you to amount of California Pizza Kitchen boxes I'm going to have to clean up. Or entire meals from Red Robin being ditched on our theatre floor. The bags of Orville Redenbacher's popcorn and discarded peanut shells. The venti Latte someone spilled across the floor, with its milk seeping into our carpeted floors and molding within the next week or two. The cans of coke that do not have a lid and make me have to take an immediate trip to the garbage, which is now going to be filled with loose liquid that will seep from every tear in the bag when I throw it down the shoot.

    And, as much as I personally refuse to search bags, that is definitely NOT for food. That policy (for our company, at least) was instated on July 20th, 2012 and is in direct correlation to the fact that we now have to have a police officer for every midnight showing. At my theatre we've been told not to even address it if someone has food inside a bag. We are legitimately looking for weapons. Complain about that all you want just attribute it to the correct cause.

    I can't believe I just defended this place.

  • Guest

    ah, disgruntled theatre employee, i understand the displaced vitriol now. i will refrain from any further defence for the pleasure of going to a movie or complaining about patrons picking on employees.

  • i never understand this hand-wringing about the theatre. for all the people who think it is a horrid experience, just don't go.

    i don't get when people say it is too expensive. a movie ticket costs (in canada) about the price of one hours labour at minimum wage--to see a larger than life spectacle that may have costed hundreds of millions to produce. for that price, you also get air conditioning and usually very plush seating(sometimes even reclining). if there are five of you, that doesn't make a ticket expensive, that makes you a big group.

    People complain about noise/chatter/texting in the theatre; again, where do you live? i see this occasionally(not limited to any particular demographic) but not enough to be worth complaining about. most people are quiet and respectful, unless you are at opening night of piranha 3D or some such, in which case, part of the experience you were paying for was rowdiness.

    I don't see any equivalence whatsoever between going to the theatre and watching at home(even if you have a whiz bang set up). going out is an event. someone else pointed out the impact of watching a film uninterrupted in the dark. being part of a large audience also contributes to the experience and impact. there is nothing quite like being in a crowd, in the dark beneath the giant flickering screen.

    and whining about concessions? i have been hearing this for decades, as long as I have been going. splurge, sneak food in, or save your waist line, but can we have a moratorium for crapping on theatres for wanting revenue so they can operate and for being like any other food and beverage venue in having a policy that disallows outside food and beverages.

    this article reads like the snottiest precious sense of entitlement. the author is aware of the policy but feels not just justified, but smug and superior in giving a succession of employees a hard time about it, some of them poor kids making minimum wage. He keeps asking why, though he is perfectly aware.

    He is however, blissfully unaware of how often they have to deal with an asshole like this and the effort they are making to treat him respectfully and not just tell him to screw off.

    not all rules are fair, but theatre rules seem pretty fair to me. regardless, people who know the rules and flaunt them or raise a fuss knowing they can wear people down who are all too used to arrogant stubborn pricks, who feel they are the one special snowflake who the rules should not apply to because they are so clever in their interior monologues, people like this need their own special ring of hell.

  • Salad_Is_Murder

    By god you are a dull-witted, arrogant fool. Some of us like going to the theater and wish that the experience had been improving instead of degrading. Hell, I'd even take it not changing if it means no more back sliding into terribleness. The theater experience is getting worse and the home system model is getting better. High quality TVs are getting cheaper and better while ticket prices and concessions climb up, shows don't start at their posted times so we can get tricked into watching commercials...THESE ARE THINGS I DON'T EVEN HAVE TO DEAL WITH IN MY HOME.

    So, idleprimate, the next time you have a 'scathing thought' and whip it out for us to see, just put it away because we'll only laugh at it...not with it.

  • fartsniffer

    Why the fuck did you run away you gutless fucking coward?

    Oh wait, we all know, you're sitting naked on your couch jacking off to your HUGE tv .

    Pull on some big boy pants, man up and get back here and take your fucking beatdown like a fucking man you gutless coward.

  • go ahead and laugh. all i hear is more hand-wringing. i don't understand this whole "degrading" nonsense. seating is better, screens are better, sound systems are better, floors are cleaner, there are more cashiers and shorter wait times (not to mention purchasing on line). there are more options at the concession stands. there are free promotional movie magazines. there are closed captioned screenings, baby friendly screenings. there are big free parking lots. they make a point of reminding people firmly about phones. what does it take to make you people happy?

    while you were laughing, can you counter any of what i wrote in my previous post? i was pretty rational and descriptive of how i perceive the theatre, and called someone out who was harassing employees and then expected a pat on the back for it. what got your goat? which part was dull-witted? i'm arrogant, but a blogger bragging about snidely and condescendingly goading a bunch of employees, bullying them to let him break the rules is not? perspective much?

    again, like i said above, you make a good argument for staying home. do so, it will free up a seat for someone who thinks it is fun to go the theatre and not some horrible punishment.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Sorry, but the degrading has been going on for some time now. Sticky floors, shitty food, terrible sound, badly adjusted projectors, and so on. The only advantage about going to the theater is that I don't have to wait for the disc release.

    I recently watched The Dark Knight Rises in the theater, after not going for about 1-1/2 years (the European re-release of Back to the Future). It's the only cinema in a city of 3.5 million people that screens English movies without subtitles. The theater was reasonably clean, and the seats okay (meaning I didn't get cramped neck muscles this time). The sound was deafening and maladjusted, and the picture quality was poor (it was darker at the sides of the screen than in the middle). And of course, I had 5 bratty US teenagers sitting behind me. Fucking tourists.

    The upside was, though, that they let me take my coffee inside. I had totally forgotten about that rule.

    So it may be that you have a theater in your vicinity that's fine. That doesn't mean everyone has.

  • i'm not sure how much I buy that. I've been to multiple theatres in 6 Canadian cities, and small towns, two theatres in Berlin, and 2 in Minneapolis. with the exception of some of the little arthouse theatres being a bit dilapidated (but in a charming antique kind of way), the theatres have been good to awesome. the lushest theatre i was ever at was in Minneapolis and the ticket was only 7.50$ (last year), which with the canadian dollar at par, was less than 75% of a canadian ticket.

    i've been going to the theatre for over thirty years. my impression is that they have improved, by any metric you care to measure. i already said it, but they are cleaner, clearer pictures, bigger screen, better sound, better seats, more leg room, faster service, more choice of film and concession. and not a little on any of those counts, but a lot.

    the movie industry produces more films than ever. City plexes usher through far more movies in a year than when i was young, and while a lot of space is devoted to blockbusters, it pays the way for a lot of diversity that doesn't bring the bucks in.

    if people live far from a major market, they will have less choice. thats a fact of economics, not shitty behaviour from theatres or the movie industry. its the same way there aren't opera houses or stadium concerts in small towns. a little town with two screens is going to look for the broadest appeal. if you want to see a screening of a documentary about south american frogs, or an indie drama about a man with cerebral palsy self actualizing, you really have to be in or near a major market. and that little town theatre might be poor and struggling and won't be cutting edge.

    maybe american theatres suck (i know american cities and economy are in rougher condition than canadian), maybe american patrons are messier and louder, i don't know. i go to the movies a lot, in many places, so when i am describing my experiences, its not just at the poshest theatre in downtown Toronto.

    i've harped on this topic a lot, because it is dear to me. i love movies and i treasure the theatre. i feel they have bent over backwards to try and pry us out of our living rooms. and it is all so cheap.

    i am the working poor (unemployed currently and i can still visit the theatre). i have no retirement plan. cant go on vacations (can't take vacations and stay at home), can't afford big concerts, or the opera(which i miss). can't afford to go to nice restaurants. don't have a car.

    but i can afford to go to the movies. regularly. and it is a magical escape, a glorious spectacle and often a moving experience. films are truly at their best on the big screen, with us deeply immersed.

    so, it does bother me when people (endlessly) complain about theatres. i just have no idea what they are talking about. ads before the movie? keeps the price down and i can skip them. i also grew up with them on tv, so its no biggie for me. expensive pop? sometimes i splurge, sometimes i don't. the occasional kid texting, or two old biddies asking each other what is going on--just doesn't dampen the fun and wonder for me. and truly, there is no comparison between the seats, screens and speakers of today and 20 years ago.

    i feel like our hermetically sealed home luxuries digital lives have made us hyper sensitive to coping with the world, common spaces, interaction, the slightest disturbance, or anything being outside our control. its the only answer i come up with for the amount of energy people have to vocally hate theatres so much, even movie lovers.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Okay, maybe I'm just unlucky. But that theater I mentioned is the only one I can go to, because I can't watch dubbed movies anymore.

    Out of curiosity: which theaters in Berlin did you visit?

  • i don't remember their names, it was five years+ ago. one was a big fancy recent central theatre, maybe near potzdamer? it had english screening without subtitles. i was astonished at how complex ticket prices were--how long a movie had been out, which time of day/day of the week, and what area of the theatre you chose to sit all impacted tiers of prices.

    have you lived in berlin? i wasn't lucky enough to find a spot in one of the trendy artsy like prenzlauer or friedrichschain. i got stuck in Pankow in East Berlin, which was, though, an education in itself

  • Fabius_Maximus

    That would have been the CineStar in the Sony Center at Potsdamer Platz, the theater I had that unfortunate experience in. They always had problems adjusting the sound, but I never had a bad picture before. And it's the only one showing English movies in this town.

    Which is my hometown, btw. Prenzlauer Berg is now part of Pankow, and overrun by yuppies. Not that I mind, they need to stay somewhere, too. I'm from the far west, from Spandau (the district with the Citadel), which probably is as smalltownish as Pankow.

  • I want to go to wherever you watch movies because our theaters SUCK and are getting worse. Crappy sound, broken chairs, each time is worse than the last. I would kill for an Alamo Drafthouse.

  • you just want the beer, Ty! germany sold beer in its theatres. civilized people. assigned seating too was kinda cool too. canadian imax screening rooms do that-means you can go in last minute.

  • junierizzle

    I couldn't agree more. My favorite complaint is "its cheaper to wait and buy the Dvd/Blue Ray." Sure it is. If you prefer to watch a movie at home that's fine. But quality wise is just the same nowadays with digital projection. Ill always pick a huge theatre screen over a 50'-60'Tv.

    Also, there is no rule that you have to eat while watching a movie. You can eat better and cheaper if you before or after.

    The only legitimate complaint is rude people during the movie. Ever heard of shushing? You'd be surprised how people clam up. Or just throw rat on them and let the ushers deal with it.

    Was this article serious? Did he just write a piece on being a Dick?

    Theatres will never die. At the end of the day its something to do. And people always want something to do.

  • Linds11

    As someone who used to work in a movie theater, let me tell you, it's no fun being on the other side of that conversation, either. You might have been polite and reasonable, but for every polite person walking up with a coffee cup, there's thirty more coming up and yelling in your face for not letting them bring their smelly McDonald's into the theater. How does this policy surprise people? THIS IS THE WAY IT'S ALWAYS BEEN.

    Yes, it sucks, but you said it yourself - concessions are the only way that movie theaters make any real profit. Do you have another solution for how they can make money? Literally 10 times a night, people would come up to me in the concessions line, order popcorn with extra butter and then bitch about how much it costs. Like, HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A MOVIE BEFORE? THIS IS HOW MUCH IT HAS ALWAYS COST. Oh, and in other news from the obvious, this isn't real butter, and it will clog up your insides. Have a nice day and please don't leave tip your half-full popcorn bucket upside-down on the floor when you're done, even though I know you will. Enjoy the show.

  • OOOG

    someone has critical thinking skills!

  • Sirilicious

    "That's the way it has always been"

    Best argument ever!

    When a distribution model is broke, fix it.

  • brite

    OK...I am truly an old curmudgeon. When I was but a young thing (waaaaaaaaay back in the 60's) my weekly allowance of a mere fifty cents would get me into a Saturday afternoon double feature with twenty five cents to spare. That two bits would buy me either what is now known as a medium popcorn and a small soda or popcorn and a huge box of raisinettes or some combination thereof. That I cannot go to a movie theater and enjoy the movie without popcorn means that today an evening at the movies costs me around 40CHF (about the same as 40 CDN).
    The bottom line is, I don't go to a movie theater very often anymore, which is a shame. There is so much lost in the shelter of my home compared to the (former) opulence of movie houses and the big screen when I was younger. The movie moguls of today have lost more than just one generation of viewers to the vcr and currently, the internet. And that's shame.
    Also, I love you STL...you are the shizz.

  • Slash

    I don't mind the no-outside-food policy. I agree that it kind of sucks, but I can usually resist. Every now and then I'll have a near-extortionately-priced small popcorn, but other than that, the snack bar food just doesn't tempt. The other patrons are much more likely to annoy than the employees or their policies. I did once have to pour outside water into a theater cup (which they gave to me for free, making no sense, since the cup actually costs them money). That was at the Angelika. I thought it was dumb, but ... whatever.

  • Judge Holdenmynuts

    It's not the concession-stand rape (legitimate rape, I might add), and it's not the vacuous teenage employees.
    It's the brain-dead mouth breathing dipshits who can't shut the fuck up for 90 minutes.
    That's why I go to maybe 5 movies a year and always after the movie has been out for a few weeks at least.

  • PDamian

    Damn straight. I usually take a drink only, and ever since my local multiplex opened up a full-service restaurant and bar inside the theatre, I'm perfectly happy to buy their drinks, given that the bartender makes a fine vodka cran. It's the little brats who can't turn their fucking phones off for 15 minutes at a time, who giggle and fidget throughout the movie, and who basically act like feral cats on crack, that ruin the experience for me. I'd pay twice what I pay now for a ticket if I could just get a theatre experience with a really roomy, reclining seat, alcohol served on the premises, and no-one under 25. The Mall of America has a VIP experience similar to this, but I live too far away to make this an every-weekend deal.

  • BlackRabbit

    The movie theatre has a bar? Wow, that won't end well. "Well, I can go see a movie instead of taking the kids somewhere fun, and have a few while I do it. I'll be sober by the time it's over, I'm sure."

  • christhebloke

    The cineplex in my neighbourhood recently opened a Tim Hortons (Canadian Dunkin Donuts) kiosk in the cineplex, which sells everything at par. On Tuesdays, a movie, large coffee and a donut is <$10.
    This whole situation could have been avoided. Heh.

  • Bert_McGurt

    The only problem is that it's Tim Horton's coffee. Yeecch.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I completely disagree with your assertion that instant gratification is the only thing to be gained by going to a theater. Yes the process is aggravating, you get bent over at the snack counter (I stopped eating in theaters), and the commercials & slides are grating to say the least, but it's still a movie. Maybe I'm lucky, but I can still find myself completely immersed in the theater.

    A good movie deserves your undivided attention and no matter what you say, you can't devote the same level of attention at home that you can in the theater. Of course the movie has to be of a certain quality or else the whole experience is torture, but who here doesn't choose carefully what they see?

    Certain movies are so night and day different when viewed at home as opposed to a theater. You watch a movie at home, you experience it in a theater. Anyone who thinks otherwise never saw Avatar in 3D in a theater.

  • pcloadletter

    Don't know how this post warranted any rate-downs. I still like going to the movies because I enjoy the communal experience. Granted, there is the frequent bad behavior (texting, talking, etc.) from a couple bad apples, but I still like seeing a movie with a crowd.

  • Patrick the Bunny

    I contemplate doing something like this every time I go to the theater, because the price of a ticket is damn ridiculous nowadays, and I haven't bought food in the theater in I don't know how long. Still, I can't bring myself to say anything to or bitch at the employees because the policy of the theater is in no way a result of their actions, and I'm sure they're having a shitty enough day already without me flipping out over why I can't bring a bottle of tea in with me.

  • Anna von Beav

    "...searing a steak to a succulent medium-rare..."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

    I'll be over in eight minutes!

  • Aaron Schulz

    You are a douchebag and shouldnt be allowed in public. You arent special, or unique or ever so smart like you clearly think. You are just another entitled sack of crap that gets in everyones way. I have to imagine its why california is a cesspool, please dont head east.

  • Hiro_the_Eighth_Samurai

    With people such as you living east, why would anyone want to move there? You don't even see how you're personally manifesting all those things you accuse the writer of, do you? You may as well be speaking to a mirror.

  • Aaron Schulz

    No i am, its why i only use the internet for that sort of thing, in public, especially to people with jobs like that, i dont want them to remember me fondly or at all, i go about my business. No one wants to be on the other side of this jackasses attempt at being rational. Because even though they got to call a manager, that manager now resents the employee just a little bit more because he unfairly makes it the low level grunts fault. Making the shit job that much worse. This world would be nicer if people didnt feel the need to try and disturb the natural order like that. I am not special, nor unique, i am just another person and happy to be that way.

  • ExUSA

    I worked for a Century Theatre chain in Alaska in 2001, and it was corporate policy that they did allow outside food or drink in, but they didn't advertise it. Basically the line was drawn if you were trying to bring in a huge pizza, or anything with a glass container, other than that you were free to go about your business. Not sure if that is still their policy, but I thought it was a good one to have.

  • badkittyuno

    Since we have a two-year old, we rarely see movies in theatres anymore. But other than having to wait a few months, I'd rather have a date night at home anyway.

  • Dominic

    well thank god for you . I went to see Bourne and Tot. Recall on the same day . In Recall not a lot of kids but one carry-in-my-arms child ( 2-3 ? yrs old . didn't make much noise that i could hear but , Really ? Then Bourne : 3 different families all migrating to the back rows where I already was . 5-6 no older than 10 . fidgeting , whining to mom then half-asleep , not wanting to leave while I'm trying to read the credits . Just FF-ing ridiculous ; mainly because kids that young shouldn't even BE AT a violent movie like that ( granted no sex there Recall had more implied sexuality ) . Much less disturbing other patrons . Get a babysitter or DON'T GO ! My theatre , new in my hood , has a bar right next door . Ate drank there , but I did get in with 20 ozs of Coke in a Vitamin Water bottle . Did buy some corn ....

  • VonnegutSlut

    I wonder if the day will ever come that we can pay, oh...I don't know, $30-$40 on the opening day of a wide release movie & watch the flick on whatever streaming device we have from the (apparently pants-less, steak-filled) safety of our living rooms.

    I just don't know if the movie industry will ever adapt to the changing business model and let go of the death grip it has on the movie theaters' collective balls.

    Side note: Not that I want to pay $30-$40 for a new movie--that's just what I imagine the studios would shoot for...

  • ChuggaWasTaken

    Just a quick point. Putting it on PPV for $40 means it will be available for free and in high quality about the length of the movie plus an additional half hour (for encoding/cleanup) after it's released. As it stands it's usually impossible to get a good rip until a couple of weeks before it's released on DVD somewhere. I'm not sure that the studios are quite ready to be giving it away for free that early as yet.

  • junierizzle

    They've tried that. They had Just Go With It available on PPV about a month after release.Price:$60

    Don't know if they are still doing that. I know a lot of indie films are available on Itunes and Amazon these days for $10. They do good buisness.

  • i think it would be really sad if we stopped congregating at the theatre for immersive community experiences and instead were a culture that pays a premium to be isolated instead.

  • Bert_McGurt

    At the risk of sounding like a scratched record*, another fine and insightful piece.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on my followup question to this piece: What does the death of the movie theater mean to the future of the film industry?
     
    (* - Why's it always called a "broken" record?  Broken records don't repeat.  They just fuck up the needle or the arm on the turntable.  At least I assume that's what happens.  I've never tried playing an actual broken record.)

  • scratched records often formed a loop, resulting in an endless repetetion of a short phrase. hence repeating yourself ad nauseam being characterized as being a broken record.

    #feeling old

  • Bert_McGurt

    But that's a SCRATCHED record, which is why I specifically used that term. It's not broken. A broken record is in two or more pieces, rendering it functionally unplayable and therefore incapable of repeating.

    I'm quite familiar with the premise and operation of LP's and turntables, thank you very much.

  • ah, it wasn't clear that you were grumbling about semantics. generally, i think people figured that a record that no longer functioned as it was designed was broken, even if it wasn't sundered in two. but i guess it can all get confusing.

  • Arran

    The "no outside food" policy is one of those things I'm iffy on. Yes, it's an incredibly douchey policy that I don't think should exist, BUT...everyone knows that it IS the policy. So my sympathy for people who act all surprised when they buy a pile of stuff and try to bring it in, only to be told they can't, is fairly limited.

    I think highway speed limits are pointless and arbitrary, but I shouldn't be surprised if I get pulled over for speeding.

  • as far as i know, most places that sell food don't like you bringing in outside food, same way you can't bring a six pack to the bar with you(even if you already spent 10 bucks to get in and see the band). theatres are not special in this regard so i don't know why the scorn is heaped on them, especially as it has been noted that the concession is how they stay afloat employing people and bringing you movies on the silver screen.

  • Peyton

    It's twofold in my opinion. First, most places don't jack up prices to the degree that movie theaters do. Second, the selection is generally much worse at a movie theater. A lot of people want to eat real food during a movie, not nachos with fake cheese or popcorn with fake butter. I'm sure movie theater owners are very happy with people like you who remain loyal. Unfortunately for them, you are an ever increasing minority. The amount of people going to the movies has been on a consistently downward slope for over a decade. There are countless reasons, but irregardless, theaters are failing to retain ticket buyers year after year and there's little hope for a turnaround.

  • the biggest culprit is convenience because ticket sales have been slowly eroding since the fifties when people first had crappy little tvs. shrinkage increased when spiffy home theatres became affordable. even if people didn't dislike theatre experience, a lot of people would just stay home and stream netflix

  • dizzylucy

    Agree, it's commonplace, and usually posted right at the door. If people don't agree with the policy, they don't have to go there. Eat elsewhere before or after. Sneak something in. Just figure it out for yourself instead of bugging the guy making minimum wage.

    Besides, if they allowed outside food, I know I'd get stuck next to the guy chomping carrots or pulling out a block of stinky cheese.

  • zyzzyva

    We smuggled a bag of fresh kettle corn from the county fair in the sleeve of a sweatshirt we carried into a movie theatre the other day. Much better than their popcorn. :D
    They never check purses, so another time I took in my cookies n cream milkshake I hadn't finished. Just was careful not to tip the bag.

    What you need is a man purse.

  • Devil Child

    Pregnancy bumps make theater officials less suspicious of guys than a man-purse, and the only men fat enough to not look suspicious with a fanny pack already need to learn how to wait a few half-hours without eating if they want to see things like grandchildren from a non-afterlife vantage point.

    Besides, bringing snacks into a movie theater is a bad idea. It increases the chance of needing a bathroom break to 100%, and unless you've seen the film before, you won't have any idea when it'll be a good time to leave the theater. More importantly, if you're seeing a film shorter than one-hundred minutes for the first time, the only acceptable bathroom breaks will either be:

    a)Non-existent.
    b)Entirely dependent on the pre-pubescent bowels you're babysitting.
    c)One-hundred minutes long, followed by refund request to theater officials.

    If you're theater is actually in need of money, order a popcorn after the film ends, and toss it in the garbage on your way home. Lethal injections are more conducive to health than movie theater popcorn.

  • dahlia6

    We used to go to the movies every Saturday. Every. Single. Saturday. Just to get out of the house. Mom and I would hit a matinee, then go out for crappy McDonalds and talk about our week and catch up. All for less than 30 dollars, including gas. Now, we only go the movie if its something we absolutely cannot wait to see, or we wait for cable and DVD's. The last movie we went to see was Dark Shadows, and there's not even a movie on our radar right now. Its honestly just not worth the money it takes to see one these days.

    Also, you need a really deep purse that you cut a slit in the bottom of the liner. You'd be amazed at the crap you can hide in one of those, and if you cram it full of girl shit, no one even bothers to look any deeper. Just so you know.

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