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—by Bill Watkins 5/4/2018


You go to McDonald’s, you give them five bucks and don’t get much—their prices have gone up recently.  Okay, start over: You go to McDonald’s, you give them eight dollars. In return for that money you get your order, pretty much exactly how you ordered it within a couple minutes, can sit down and eat it or go home and eat it, etc.

There’s a good guarantee that for my money, I get a product I can count on, most of the time.  Once I asked for money back at that restaurant when I saw how tables were uncared for, then they looked at me with scorn when I asked about it.  But most of the time, higher than ninety percent, it goes well, and so that is a business that will see me again.

Movie ticket prices have gone up a lot over the years, but here we go:

Give a movie theater about twelve or fifteen bucks, they will take it and give you a ticket. You enter the theater, have either snuck in cheap candy or suffer to buy overpriced items at the concession counter.  Leaving concessions out, let’s examine the twelve or fifteen bucks for the ticket.  Am I getting a consistent return on that money? Is it guaranteed?

Today’s multiplex has many theaters and screens in one place.  I buy a ticket to go to a showing of a film in one of the many theaters at a location, walk in, catch some previews if I’m responsibly, respectfully on time, then my movie begins.

I think it’s reasonable to think that for the money I paid for the ticket, I am entitled a soundtrack mixed with color/light/sound that combines with emotive elements like dialogue and music, story.  It’s a grand escape!! Sometimes one can even come away with a moral, but that is not to be expected, only hoped for…

So what guarantees I get a basic soundtrack and visual story?  Are there ushers inside the house when the film is running?  Is there a quiet manager overseeing, making sure no one talks, uses their phone, or puts their feet up on my armrest or seat, adding shoe odor to my popcorn grab and taste?

While they make checks, most theaters today are self-managed by patrons, and if something goes wrong—it is the patron that spots the problem first, comes out to the lobby and reports it to movie theater personnel.  What they are not doing when they come out to report a problem to staff is, of course: Watching the movie.

Patrons are often sold tickets late, come in late, and name a theater that really patrols and stops that flow.  As movies are an illusion, an escape into another world, how does a patron feel when in the middle of that ride—some latecomer comes in with a cellphone light on, looking for their seat as the opening music and dialogue attempt to thrill?

How does my fifteen bucks feel, gone from my account in hopes of entertainment, in the bank of businesses who think customers can be trusted with following movie theater policy and law inside presentation rooms.

“But no one complained” might become an anthem to get by week after week, but shouldn’t a theater know that many people do not complain.  For shyness or whatever reason, many are just more likely to not come back.  To give up on paying for movies they may not enjoy because of lack of theater rule enforcement.

I stopped paying for movies a couple years ago.  I went in to see Moana for a second time so I could be with my girlfriend when she saw it for her first.  No usher helped, so I closed our theater door at start time, but the jam stuck so I could not kick it.  I reached down to unlatch it, cut myself.

No usher or theater personnel was in sight.

That’s the state of movie presentation in today’s multiplex. I work at one now, and so enjoy free movies full of the above-listed problems.  But I would not pay for one at this time; not until theater policy is enforced, patrons cared for, and a good experience guaranteed by presenters.