Former Movie Theater Employees Reveal Some Crazy Secrets
If you've gone to the movies, you've probably never given much thought to what happens behind the scenes. Movie theater employees have some pretty interesting things to say about what happens while you're watching the movie.
After combing through hours of interviews with former theater staff, we got the low down on the stuff no one really talks about at the movies. Check out the interesting and crazy secrets former movie theater employees reveal about what really happens while the movie is playing.
Rude Truths About Ending Credits
One former employee says that if you're not 100% sure there will be a post-credits scene, please check online to see instead of remaining in your seat waiting. He rants that it's annoying when you've worked 12+ hours and have to wait for people to leave before cleaning and locking up.
"It's so frustrating that people just sit there waiting, and you know there's no post-credits scene. To the people who waited at the end of Deadpool 2, I'm looking at you!"
Can’t Live on Cheese Alone
Don't shutter too much when you hear this former employee's confession. “Nacho and pretzel cheese was made in a 5-gallon bucket. We stirred it with a big spoon and sometimes while stirring, something would fall into the cheese, like a lid or cup."
He went on to admit that one time some change fell out of his pocket. "There is no way to get anything out of a bucket full of thick cheese." He even admitted, "Some employees would also put fun stuff in the cheese, like Skittles.”
Don’t Be That Guy on Christmas
One former employee revealed that they resented everyone who ever came to the movies on Christmas. "I hated when they came in on any major holiday, but Christmas moviegoers bother me the most. I mean, we all want to be home with our families, not working."
She said that she felt it was inconsiderate and that people who do it are "so rude." One former employee did say he liked working on Christmas. "People are generally more cheerful, and that's a nice change."
Don’t Order the Popcorn On Opening Night
One former employee reveals something that actually did shock us at first. She said that on big premier nights, employees will start making popcorn the night before. "We've even started on the Wednesday before a Friday premiere. We weren't taking any chances with running out of popcorn with a Harry Potter premiere."
So that means that if you go to see a popular movie on opening night, the chance that your popcorn will be fresh is slim to none. But that's okay, right? You didn't go for the popcorn after all.
Don’t Drop the Reel
Before movie theaters used digital projectors, movies were placed on large wheels called reels. Simply touching the film with your fingers could ruin the film.
One former employee talked about his early days working in the theater. "I dropped the reel on opening night. That wasn't the worst of it. If I had known what I was doing, I wouldn't have touched it. That ruined the film, and I thought I would be fired." Luckily, he wasn't.
No Outside Food or Drinks
In the early 2000s, people camped out hours before a show for good seats. Some people would eat the snacks they brought for the movie while they waited. The former employees in the interview said they didn't care about that. “Bring in outside food. We don’t care.”
One employee mentioned that one time this family had a pizza delivered to the theater and ate in the hallway while waiting while staff cleaned the theater between shows. Apparently, this violated the theater's no outside food policy, so they confiscated it. "We then went back into the storage room and ate their pizza."
The Crooks of the Operation
Everyone always curses the theaters for the price of the movie when, in reality, the theater has no control over the ticket price. The majority of the sales from the film go to the movie company, the real money-makers.
The theater has to make its money off the concession stand and other theater-owned merchandise. "I always hated getting yelled at for the prices. Like, my manager doesn't even control that. Yell at corporate."
Don’t Miss the Double Feature
Many former theater employees confess that they really don't mind the audience wanting to see a second movie after buying only one ticket. As long as you do it quietly and nonchalantly, theater staff will not try to stop you.
However, make sure you choose a second film that will not sell out because if you replace an actual customer, you could be in trouble. You don’t want to give them a reason to ban you.
Holding Your Cup Since ’81
Often times the simplest innovations can make all the difference in the world. In the case of movie theater seats, it took more than 50 years before a much-needed advancement was made.
In 1981, the first cinema chairs with cup holders appeared. Customers needing a comfortable place to keep their drinks now had a nice convenient spot right at the end of their armrests.
(Really) Big Screen Gaming
Once upon a time, movie theater employees took advantage of the time when the theater was closed to play Xbox or other video game consoles on the big screen.
However, nowadays, due to the continuous development of theater and projection technology, the process of setting up game consoles in theaters isn't as easy to do as it used to be. Imagine how crazy it would be to cut a Guitar Hero riff from the back row!
If you've ever found yourself suddenly craving popcorn as soon as you walk into a movie theater, there's a reason behind it. Movie theaters use a special technique to ensure that the irresistible, buttery scent envelops every cinema corridor.
This trick includes using a combination of canola oil and coconut when popping the popcorn and coating it in mysterious, unidentified chemicals. Additionally, former theater employees admit that specially designed vents in the popper help spread the aroma.
Cleaner Than You Think
While movie theater staff may clean up between show times, there's a good chance they'll miss a few spots. This is because many movies often end at the same time or several minutes apart. Most of the time, theater cleaning workers will actually only have time to pick up trash and sweep floors.
After the final screening of the night, the floor is mopped thoroughly. Not only that, crews come in regularly and sanitize surfaces with special chemicals.
Popcorn Became Popular After WWII
While popcorn had been around for many years before feature films were seen in movie theaters, it didn't become a staple as a movie theater snack until World War II. One former employee talks about when he was a young boy during the war. "It was the only snack you could get after they rationed sugar for the war."
That same young boy went on to work in that theater when he was in high school, long after the war had ended. "It seemed weird to serve more popcorn than candy. Candy was all I wanted as a kid going to the cinema but all they had was that vial popped corn.” The man, well into retirement, went on to say he only orders candy at the movies now.
Beware of the Hot Dog
One movie theater employee warns, "beware of the hot dog." She goes on to say that not only does no one know what makes up a hot dog, but we also have no idea how employees handle them before serving them.
"We may or may not be wearing well-fitting gloves," she says, explaining how the gloves they used would hang down into the hot dog water, getting in the fingers of the gloves. That can't be clean.
I'll be making a mental note to never eat the hot dogs at a theater. Unless it's on one of those roller grills. Although, that doesn't solve the mystery of the contents of a hot dog.
Get in for Free
Are you short on cash but want to go to the movies? No problem. Simply act like a Karen the next time you go see a movie, and they are likely to offer you a free movie pass just to get rid of you. Now, we don't recommend ever acting like a Karen.
That said, in this economy, you have to do what you have to do for some cheap entertainment. It just means letting the manager know the theater was much too cold for your liking and doing it in a way that makes them want to get rid of you with free passes (or something like that).
See What You Want
Employees admit that they don't care if you just hop into another theater if you don't like the movie you're watching. Most people will come and complain only to ask to see a different film. Theater staff says they would rather you just go see the other movie and not waste their time complaining about it first.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Sold-out shows or opening-day viewings are not a good time to hop from a bad movie to a better one. Otherwise, theater employees admit they aren't going to yell at you if you do this.
Watch Out for Super Strict Employees
While it might seem that we are encouraging you to break the law and watch movies you didn't pay for, we're simply stating most employees don't care. They aren't going to worry about which movie - or even how many - you watch.
But there is always an exception to that rule, and that would be the Paul Blart of movie theater employees. You know, the security guard in Mall Cop. They are strict, want everyone to follow the rules, and will call the police if you break the law.
The Best Seat in the House
Everyone has their favorite spot inside a movie theater. Some people want to be in the center at the back of the theater, while others prefer a seat near the aisle. Movie theater employees reveal that the best seat in the theater is the very center seat.
Sound quality is better, along with being optimal for viewing. While it isn't convenient if you need to get out of your seat, you really shouldn't get up during the movie anyway. You know that's when you'll miss the best part.
Too Close for Comfort
One of the employees we talked to had some crucial advice, don't sit too close to someone you don't know in an empty theater. If you do that, everyone will think you are creepy. Plus, why would you want to make perfect strangers uncomfortable by sitting too close?
Choose seats at least two rows over and never in the same row, not even at the end. Sit where you're comfortable, but keep in mind other people's comfort as well, and don't be that guy at the movies.
Keep Track of Your Cash
Movie theater employees reveal that they find money all the time. Most employees say if it's a few dollars, they'll keep it. One employee says that they feel anything over $20 is wrong to keep without leaving it in the lost and found for at least a week.
Almost every employee we talked to said that they always keep the change. One employee said that on premier nights, or when shows are sold out, the staff will sometimes pool the money together at the end of the night. Then they buy pizzas or something cheap (obviously not from the theater).
I Can't Believe It’s Not Butter
The butter for the popcorn isn't actually butter. That's right, it's oil and basically the other ingredients that make up butter substitute products like margarine. One girl said that someone came up and asked for butter-free popcorn because she was vegan.
The movie theater employee let the customer know that the "butter" packaging was clear; it was a non-dairy product, meaning it isn't actually butter on the popcorn.
Kid’s Movies are THE Worst
Movie theater employees reveal that the worst thing (aside from cleaning toilets) about their job is when there is a new kids' movie released in the theater. "Children are literally the worst," says one movie theater employee.
He claims that they understand that the adult who brings kids to see kids' movies probably doesn't want to be there either, but nobody in the theater wants to deal with a bunch of kids excited to see their favorite character on the big screen. "Literally, no one. They are messy and loud and sometimes really rude."
Why They Will Kick You Out
Again, unless you come across the Paul Blart of movie theater employees, most are not going to kick you out of the theater. What will get you kicked out is your cell phone going off during the movie.
Not only is it rude to the other moviegoers to take a call or text during the movie, but the movie theater attendants "don't play when it comes to phones." They will kick you out without a refund. Bye! One employee said that the main reason is that it leads to fights, one of the only other things they'll kick you out for.
Never underestimate the power of getting banned. According to some employees, they will ban you for nearly any reason if you catch them on a bad day.
They get away with it because so many people openly break the rules that it's easy to use that infraction as a reason to ban you. Those employees can watch you bring in candy ten times, but that one time you give the wrong concessions employee attitude - banned!
Church of the Holy Movie Theater
In some places, theaters are closed on Sunday mornings so they can broadcast the sermons from some of the nation's largest "mega-churches" or an over-populated local church. Sometimes, if a local church has too many members, they will rent out a movie theater to broadcast remotely to members who didn't fit in the church building.
We just have one question, who decides who has to watch the sermon remotely? Is it based on how much they tithe? Either way, movie theater employees say these "customers" are almost as bad as dealing with children on the opening day of a kids' movie.
Don’t Be Fooled By The Combo Deal
Popcorn and candy used to be the only concessions available. Now you can order pretzels, hotdogs, nachos, and much more. Some movie theaters even serve dinner and adult beverages (to the 21 and older crowd).
If they offer a vast array of movie treats, chances are they also offer three or more items in a combo deal. Movie theater employees reveal that in most cases if you do the math, it isn't actually a deal at all.
Stop Hiding Your Trash
"Why do people do this?" One former movie theater employee rants when asked about the trash people leave behind in the theater. "Okay, we get that you are too lazy to throw away your trash but then why go to the trouble of hiding it?"
Hiding it really does seem like a lot more work than simply throwing it in a trash can that you will inevitably pass as you walk out of the theater. If you're someone who hides trash, stop it. Not only is it disrespectful, but it also takes extra effort.
Not-So Kid-Friendly Previews
One former movie theater employee we talked to had a shocking secret to reveal. She said that sometimes, production companies will add previews to movies geared toward adults at the beginning of kids' movies.
They do this because they know an adult had to take their kid to the theater and is most likely also watching the flick. Some movie studios and production companies will add some not-so-kid-friendly previews.
3D Movies Cause Extra Clean Up
Movie theater employees reveal that they strongly dislike 3D movies. "Most people get queasy during 3D movies. I have cleaned up a lot of vomit after a 3D movie viewing," says one former employee. That sounds gross.
We couldn't imagine how awful it would be to clean up after multiple people who got nauseous during their movie and didn't keep down their popcorn. Maybe they shouldn't sell concessions to 3D moviegoers?
No Butter Has Butter
If you ever go to the movies and ask for no butter, the concessions staff should let you know the popcorn they pop comes pre-buttered. Well, maybe not pre-"buttered," but it does come with that oily butter substitute already added.
Basically, you can ask for no added butter, but you're probably not going to get popcorn without that yummy buttery substance on it. Hopefully, the employee will explain that to you but don't be mad if they don't.
Floors Are NOT The Dirtiest Thing at a Theater
Don't be fooled. The dirtiest place in the movie theater is not the floors. Those get swept between show times and cleaned regularly at the end of every night. What doesn't get cleaned is the popcorn machine.
One former movie theater employee reveals that in the four years she worked at the local movie theater during high school, they never once made them clean the popcorn machine. As a former skating rink employee who worked in the concession stand, I can attest that the popcorn machine was never cleaned there as well.
People Actually DO Get Frisky at the Movies
Movie theater employees reveal that people actually do fool around in the movie theater. Maybe because it's dark and semi-private, but it is NOT the place for getting frisky!
No one wants to see that, and there is no way to keep it completely secret. One employee said she had to ban one couple because they kept getting caught. They blamed it on having small kids and no privacy at home, but traumatizing fellow moviegoers is not okay. Get a room!
Former movie theater employees reveal that often it doesn't do much good to "talk to the manager." If you really have an issue with the theater, and you cannot be calmed down with free movie passes, you're going to have to talk to corporate to manage the issue.
Unless you are at a privately-owned theater, the manager is probably limited by corporate rules and can only do so much to resolve your issue. Free movie passes are about what you can expect from anyone at the theater.
Pretzels Are Problematic
Former concession employees reveal that pretzels are the most problematic snack available at the snack bar. The process of warming them up dries them out, and more customers complain about the "quality of the pretzel" as a result.
Former theater employees encourage everyone to forego ordering the pretzels. "Stick to the basics, like popcorn, candy, and soda. Don't get fancy at the movie theater and expect high-quality food." We agree with that employee.
The Gum That Lasts
Unless specifically asked, movie theater employees do not clean the gum off from under the tables, benches, and other places kids stick that flavorless glob. It stays there until they are forced to clean it, or the piece of furniture they are on gets replaced.
One former employee reveals that one time when she was asked to clean the gum off from the bottom of the front counter. She told her manager that she did but couldn't bring herself to clean up the gross mess. She said that was the last shift she worked at the theater, but never said whether she was fired or quit.
Not As Sneaky As They Think
Sometimes people want to see a movie but don't want anyone to see them watching the film. Sometimes it's kids who are underage trying to sneak into an R-rated flick or an adult embarrassed about wanting to see a kids' movie.
One former movie theater employee said that he thinks it's funny when someone tries to sneak around the theater. "We literally don't care who you are or what movie you are there to see. Unless you're famous, chances are, no one cares what movie you go there to see."
It’s Become a Scary Place to Work
Movie theaters have become a scary place to work. One former movie theater employee admitted that after the shooting at a theater in Colorado at the midnight premier of The Dark Knight, she quit the next day.
Since then, movie theaters have done their part to beef up security and keep moviegoers safe. Some former employees said it made them feel better, and others said seeing the security guards made them feel like they worked a dangerous job.
Talk About Disturbing…
Nothing is more annoying than when someone in the theater talks throughout the movie. While this might seem like an issue for moviegoers, former employees reveal that this behavior also annoys staff.
Not because it disturbs them the way it does movie watchers. It's because multiple people often come out to complain in hopes the staff will take care of it. Former employees admit that they hated confronting talking patrons.
People Complain About Laughing
One former movie theater employee reveals that some customers will complain about everything, even people laughing during the movie. "I don't understand how people can get mad at someone laughing, especially when it's a comedy. Like, just stay home to watch the movie."
That makes sense to us. If you are someone who gets annoyed at the actions of others, then maybe a crowded movie theater isn't the right place to watch a movie, especially a comedy.
A Movie And A Show
One former movie theater employee we talked to said that her favorite pastime was to watch couples fight while they were at the movies. "I especially liked when they would 'quiet fight.' They whisper their angry words and get angry at each other. It's almost like watching a silent film."
It could be distracting if you're watching a movie, but the fight the couple next to you is having is more interesting. It's like getting two shows for the price of one, but we can see how it would be annoying if you really were into the movie you paid to watch, not the free sideshow.
A Clean-Up Worth Quitting Over
While movie theater employees expect to have some cleanup after a showing, sometimes the mess is just too much. One former movie theater employee we spoke to admitted to quitting because the theater was "trashed," according to the former worker.
"I walked into the theater with my broom and extra trash bags in hand. I took one look around and walked out. There were some other reasons I quit, but after all I had to deal with that week, I was not about to end my night cleaning up after anyone else."
Famous Patrons Are The Worst Patrons
"The ones who star in the movies seem to think it's okay to act like they own the theater," rants one former movie theater employee. She went on to tell about a time when Nicholas Cage came to see a movie and acted like none of the rules applied to him.
"We had to throw out an entire thing of popcorn because he served himself without gloves. He didn't even pay for the wasted popcorn." Listen, Nick, just because you make the movies doesn't mean you can make yourself at home at every theater that plays them.
Training is the Best Part
One former movie theater employee we talked to said the training is the best part. "Not being the trainer, I mean being the trainee. It's the only time you're really excited about working there."
It's crazy to think that the only time that movie theater employees enjoy their job is when they are too new to know how awful it is. We're sure it's not like that for everyone, but the few former employees we talked to all agreed.
Screams Are Startling
While that might not seem like a crazy revelation, former movie theater employees admit that when patrons scream in the theater that it sometimes startles the staff. "I hated when people screamed. That's the worst part about when the theater would show a horror flick."
It does make sense that hearing a room full of people scream can be alarming, but it doesn't make much sense to get scared when you know the scary movie will make people scream.
One former theater employee revealed that they miss the employee perks, like money off the price of concessions and the unlimited number of free movies they got to watch. While they went on to admit that the theater they worked for didn't allow the employees to get in for free, they never had to pay.
"I would just go when my friends worked. They would let me in without making me pay." That's one perk we could get used to and would take advantage of often (as long as we didn't get in trouble).
Disdain for Self-Service
Former employees reveal that they hated when the theater they worked at offered self-serve concession stands for condiments. "People are so messy when they are making their own food," explains one former theater employee.
She goes on to say that the adults were usually worse than the kids, and men were always messier than women. "It is like cleaning up after toddlers but worse."
Old Movies Are More Than Just a Fan Favorite
During an interview with former movie theater employees, one of the girls suddenly admitted that her favorite night to work was when the theater featured old movies. "You know, the black and white ones."
She goes on to say that the crowd those movies bring in is unique to any other moviegoer. Older folks attend and behave as they did when they saw the movie in theaters for the first time. When it came to the younger folks, "many dressed and acted like they are from the '50s. They were a fun crowd of moviegoers."
Date Night Observers
One thing we heard multiple times from the former employees during the interview was how they all enjoyed people-watching. "We would try to figure out who was on a date and at which level of dating they were in," one former worker said.
"The ones who were married or in long-term relationships, but we liked to try and figure out if couples were on their first, second, or third date." Interesting glimpse into the conversations the employees have while they're dishing up our $10 popcorn and $7 medium Pepsi.
All The Upgrades
Some of the corporate-owned theaters have gone all out and made upgrades to what they serve at the movie. Many have even opened bars inside the theaters where allowed.
One employee told us how she felt when the theater she worked at upgraded one of the concession stands to sell adult beverages only. "Drunk moviegoers are both fun and frightening. As long as they don't have too many, they are okay. But waking up someone who drank too much is no fun for either of us." That seems like a fair point.