So I was looking on my Facebook feed recently and found a thing about “The secrets movie theatre workers don’t want you to know” and it leads to an article named “36 Movie Theatre Secrets They Don’t Want You To know” and it got me thinking. The things that might be slightly different to the article only is in the basis of this is an American article but you’d think most of it was relevant to the UK… Actually I think it’s completely balls.
Firstly, yes… I work in a Cinema now. I’m still doing media bits and bobs but when I’m not at home being a fantastic dad and rock to the love of my life, or being a radio genius, I am working in a Cinema, which is pretty fun. I might not get into specifics like the company I work for… nor are my views are that of the company I work for or my colleagues. You can find the original article here.
Finding things in cinemas has been a subject on Prick Up Your Ears podcast but I can’t be bothered to find it right now.
1) An alarming amount of moms leaving dirty nappies under seats
In my 8 months of working in a cinema I have NEVER found a nappy under a seat, clean or dirty. You do find interesting and questionable things though, such as an empty ham packet. Someone clearly has eaten sliced ham by it’s self. I did find that someone had decided to not leave the auditorium to have a wee during the anniversary screening of Terminator 2 – which is mind boggling because they were found in the front row and the person would clearly have had to get up and pee… so their choice was to pee in front of a bunch of people instead of walking to the toilet and having some dignity. They’d have missed about 1 minute of a film THAT WAS RELEASED 20 YEARS AGO!
2) Employees don’t mind if you want to make it a double feature
We don’t mind… IF YOU ACTUALLY PAY! The article suggests that cinema employees don’t mind you skipping screens to see something else. There are a lot of people who do pay to see two films, so im not going to let in a few free ones. Personally I think some cinemas are not built with this possibility in mind and should have a walk through system that makes sense, but this isn’t possible all the time. In some older placed they used to have what film was on outside it, but in the one I work in this doesn’t happen and to find out what’s on where you have to go into the kiosk, which will require you to go past the “Drop Box” which is where they rip your ticket or scan your digital ticket. So many people are involved with making films and personally I feel responsible when people sneak into films, or do pirate copies.
3) Manages will give you a free pass if you share a screening with a crying child.
Nope… or at least not a given thing. Basically the films that are shown have age ratings, so the chances of s screaming child during something like “all The Money In The World” which is a 15 film is not likely. It’s possible in a 12A or PG film but the likelihood that the people coming to watch those films wont want to bring their young child because it’s a hassle for them and they want to watch the film, not settle their baby. People tend to get embarrassed with that sort of thing anyway. We didn’t take Finn into the cinema until we were sure there was something he wouldn’t do that in and embarrass us. Plus when you go into a U rated film (Universal – for everyone) it’s inevitable that there will be little kids in there. Fun fact, under 8s need accompanying by an adult. People tend to use their common sense more than not.
4) In Korea they have fried cuttlefish with popcorn.
This is no suprise. The cinema is a great place to find weird things. We once had Cheese popcorn which was gross apparently. We recently had Strawberry cheesecake.
5) The history of popcorn
I think the person who figured out how to make popcorn is a genius. I always wondered how they figured it. Was it just really hot one day and all the dried corn just popping in a field?
6) Employees Playing Xbox on the big screen after hours
Although this would be possible, you need to stop and think about how this would actually happen. You would need a lot of wires to do this, and even it it was wireless would the remotes actually reach that far? You’d need to connect it to the projection room and if you were to play in there you’d have to see it through a small window… it’s a lot of effort. Doable, but too much effort. You’d also have to get managers permission to go into the projection room, or at least for the chain I work for. Everything is connected digitally including how the films play. More on this later.
7) Cup Holders were not a thing until 1981
Well that’s news to me.certain seats have movable arm rests and atleast in the cinema i work in they have cup holders on both sides at the front. This is not the case for other seats.
8) The average amount of popcorn Americans eat
70 Quarts apparently… not totally sure what that means but that’s what the article says, which I gather is a lot.
9) You’re better off going for a dinner than snacking during the show.
This depends if you’re wanting to actually go to the cinema for snacks and a film in the first place, or whether you’re up for a day out. Personally when I go to the cinema I enjoy getting the pick’n’mix or a massive Ice Blast or Slush drink. It’s part of the fun, but if you want food then go to the many near by restaurants that will have opened off the back of a cinema being located near-by. We sell Hotdogs, Nachos, Popcorn and loads of different sweets. They are snacks not meals. The reason for this is probably because if you have something too smelly like a McDonalds or chips with lots of vinegar it can be distracting to others in the screening and be rather unpleasant.
10) There’s a reason why popcorn smells so good
This article suggests there are tricks to make it more irresistible to buy popcorn and one of those is adding oils or chemicals to it. I can categorically confirm that in the chain I work for, it has online training that is rolled out to all of it’s employees, and the popcorn contains Corn, Oil and Salt or Sugar depending on which one you want. One fun fact though is that our popper is based in the back, and it’s pretty rare that you see those popcorn machines in the Kiosk in modern cinemas, however the smell of it is it’s USP… and cinemas have always smelt of popcorn, they were just smaller and in a closer proximity of the machine. These days they hook the air vent to the air that comes from the popcorn machine into the air conditioning. I did have a dream the other night based on this which is that it snowed popcorn through the air conditioning, but this is not a thing.
11) Theatres rarely control what they show
Just like the radio, the cinemas are owned by large companies and they are told what to do. Radio stations are told what to play. Heart for instance shares a music library across the UK, and all the local breakfast shows are given the same content and music, the difference is that the local presenters can take local calls and can mention local places. In the cinema there are local interests, but these tend to be things for special events, and local groups can book a screen out.
12) It’s easier for the crew cleaning up to leave your rubbish on your seats
No. This is not true. It’s easier if you take your rubbish with you and put it in the bin outside or give it to the person with the rubbish bag. This is a fact. If you’re not going to pick it up then it doesn’t matter where you leave it. If you leave popcorn bags on the seat there is a chance that it will spill all over the floor and create more mess. If you’re going to leave a mess then just leave it in a tidy pile and not all over the place.
13) You May be in luck if you’re not into blockbusters
I’m not totally up on the whole indie movie scene locally so there’s not much I can say on this, but the chain I work for tends to have blockbusters. They have new releases every Friday (Unless they have a release in the week for some reason) and we don’t generally know as staff what is happening sometimes until it comes out. It’s just the nature of how it works. I guess it’s like having a baby that you know is coming, and the person having it isn’t in agonising pain.
14) Many midnight screenings were banned because of the Aurora shootings.
This is certainly not the case in the UK We have midnight screenings here, and we had spooky clowns come to the midnight screening of IT earlier this year. We recently had loads of Jedi knights and storm troopers at the recent midnight screening of Star Wars.
15) Films often start late but finish on time.
They do sometimes start late, but they don’t always finish on time if they start late. This also can impact the next showing in the screen as we need time to do a quick tidy up. A late start is usually because of a technical problem which happens sometimes. Depending on the problem we might play the ads and trails, or might skip them. There tends to not be anyone in the projection room and staff come in regularly to check that things are all good and everyone is behaving, but if something is wrong, like the 3D doesn’t seem right or something is out of focus, or someone is acting like an idiot, they you just need to grab a member of staff and tell them what the problem is. We’re always happy to talk about whatever. We have regular customers who come in just to talk about a film franchise or something.
16) There’s rarely anybody in the projection booth
This is correct. There only tends to be anyone in there if there’s a problem and that tends to be a manager. This doesn’t stop people from shouting to the projectionist when the wrong film comes on which happens sometimes.
17) Some theatres are experimenting with Alcohol
This has been a thing happening for years…
In fact other cinemas in the chain have full on bars and historically the older chains when cinemas had 1 or 2 auditoriums had bars in them. In our cinema we have a small fridge with stuff like cider or Vodka and Coke in a can. People are always surprised.
18) Noise levels can be dangerous
Yeah they probably could. I don’t know much about the volume right now but what I know is that if it’s too loud for us then it will be to loud for our customers, and if we have complaints it’s something I’d speak to the manager about and they’d do something about it.
19) Combos don’t always save you money
I guess this depends on what company the cinema is. For instance the one I work for, if you get a small size popcorn, it’s actually small and if you go the next size up (Roughly about 70p difference) it’s double the size when you go up. Same for drinks, but it’s 50p… it is like £4 for a large though so I always think if you’re spending the money you might as well… and that’s probably the reasoning for the price.
20) It’s possible to get blacklisted from a cinema
Yeah, I guess it is… if you’re like… a cereal… whatever… wanker… thief… kind of thing. If you are caught filming even just a little bit that can get you into serious shit… it can also earn me some cash by getting my managers attention, especially if you’re convicted.
21) Employees get to see the films before the public
This isn’t always the case. We have staff showings and on occasion they do have a screening on the same day as release, but it’s usually when it’s been out for a while
22) Its pointless to complain to an employee about a film – There’s not much we can do
Well… yeah there’s not a lot we can do. I’ve had people demanding a refund or a comp after the film or half way through. That’s not a thing though… you went to watch a film… if it’s crap it’s not our problem. It’s nice to hear when someone has or hasn’t enjoyed a film, it’s actually one of the best bits of working there (Other than pouring Iceblasts). I once had an elderly man who went in to watch “Girls Trip” last year, and he came out traumatised, and couldn’t believe that he went to book that film. There was a woman who came out of “Mother” half way through who said it’s the biggest ball of shite she’d ever seen and couldn’t take much more of it. Same for a good review though, but we don’t have as many of those. An angry voice is a louder voice, but for me it’s all about the cinema experience. I just wish that there was a way of making more of an effort on that.
23) Sometimes you can get free tickets if your friend works in a cinema
Yep, well… sort of. If you go on a trip with 2 people we have a card that gets you discount on snacks and also free films. However the only way you can get your friend into a screening is if you win a comp from an incentive. These are things you get when you do something like sell a certain amount of things.
24) You can get arrested for filming a movie
Hell yeah you can. We have something called VRAs… Vulnerable Release Alerts. These are all about new films we need to keep a special eye on to ensure there’s nobody filming whether with a camera or phone or whatever, or even the audio on a recording device. It can get you banned not from just one cinema but all the bloody cinemas. Recently people have been adapting caps to record films.
25) Sneeking into films that are not your age rating (If you’re a kid)
The article says about getting another ticket for a film. Thing is, there is a few problems with that. The first is that every seat is allocated and you have to sit in the seat, because that seat may be already sold. We also go into films to make sure everything is OK. We can challenge anyone in the screen if we suspect they shouldn’t be there. There’s a few ways to get tickets that people try and get away with it too. Kids try and buy online, but they get asked for I.D (Yeah! we actually do this) when they get to the drop box (It’s a podium where we take tickets). They also try and get their ticket from the machines downstairs, which again we can ask for I.D or some sort of age confirmation. The other one is from the box office or concessions stand where they could face a gauntlet of questions there, and on the drop box.. Even if you’re accepted by one you might not be by the other. What sort of I.D though? Well this is kind of subjective, however you kind of have to use your best judgement and question any doubts. I tend to go with the following.
- Ask how old they are. If they are under 8 their parent tends to buy their ticket so I ask them how old they are. If I think it’s true or plausible then I’ll go with that, but I tend to ask them how old rather then “are they over the age of 8?”.
- If they are alone I will ask them how old they are. For a 12A film where you have to be accompanied by an adult if you’re under 12 I will ask for a date of birth and basically judge whether the way they have conducted themselves has been relatively what I’d expect from someone who was at least 12 . I will do this to anyone who asks for a child or student ticket. If they ask for an adult ticket I will tend to follow the below.
- For a 15 film, I’ll ask for either a student pass, passport, driving licence (you can get these from age 16) or a pass card. They need to be 15 to get in so In my head I will ask anyone who I suspect to be 13 or under and if they fail they don’t get in . This is a safety for a few reasons, but the person on the drop box could also turn them down so I’d want to be sure. A photo of these would also be acceptable. I’d advise anyone who is under 20 take some sort of I.D whether that’s physically or a picture on your phone.
- For an 18 film I ask anyone who looks under 20 for I.D and will accept a student I.D, or I might look for an indication that they are over 18 before asking such as a professional tattoo or piercing. It’s also about how they conduct themselves. They need to be 18 to get in so In my head I will ask anyone who I suspect to be 15 or under and if they fail they don’t get in.
- With all the ages I tend to I.D anyone if I think they are the age just to make sure they are the correct age. Basically 2 years each way.
26) Theatre staff interrupt sexy time once a week.
Sexy time happens, but it doesn’t tend to be as frequent than that. If it does we can tell them to leave.
28) The cost of digital projectors has driven smaller cinemas out of business
Actually in this country the cinemas were already owned by other bigger companies. Even going back to the days of ABC Cinemas, these were closed mainly due to being bought by nightclubs and converted. There are smaller cinemas that exist that wouldn’t be able to house an old style projector, and in some cases a smaller projector does just as good a job. At uni I once put a double showing on in a lecture hall with sweets and snacks.
29) Pretzels may not be your best bet of snack
I wish we had pretzels. We don’t sell any sort of crisps or anything other than nachos.
30) You should have your order ready at the counter.
This isn’t a biggie for me as long as you don’t walk off and get pick and mix half way through your order or that you don’t decide that you’re going to swap your large coke for a bottle. If you have vouchers, you need to tell us first because every time you get something wrong we have to cancel it on our tills and it’s recorded as a mistake. Purchase your film first, and if you have vouchers tell us these, don’t say “Two adults and a child” and let us put this into the till as two adults and a child because we have to cancel your order and put it in as vouchers.
Don’t stand at an empty till… It’s probably closed… It does say on the till. Also don’t assume that just because someone is in that area at that time, that you can hang around and be served next. When when we say “Sorry this till is closed, you can join one of my colleges over there” don’t say that you’ve been there 15 minutes… because I’ve been here for 3 making an ice cream and you just came here because you were in another cue. Don’t move cues because you think it would be quicker unless you are called over.
31) The Cleaning schedule doesn’t allow for the most thorough cleaning.
Most of the time we don’t need to do this, but we have around 20-30 mins to clean a screen and depending how busy it might take a few more than 2 people to do screens. Any floors that are sticky will have a quick mop.
32) The popcorn may not be as fresh as you’d like to think.
Popcorn may be popped on a different day at times, just because we go through loads of the stuff. It will most likely have been popped a couple of days before, and is totally fine for it to go into the warmers.
Ads have always been there since forever. These days the ads and trails last about 20 minutes in the chain I work for.
Maybe this will shed some light on the subject. Any questions? Give e a shout and I may be able to address it