The holidays are coming. College students are already packing up to head back home for hearty hugs and home cooked meals from parents. Turkey legs and Christmas presents will be passed lovingly around the table and around the Christmas tree. A whole truckload of hot new blockbusters, including “The Hobbit,” Quentin Tarantino’s latest “Django Unchained” and “Les Misérables” will hit the screen. We might even get a white Christmas.
It all sounds so magical. Except if you’re a movie theater worker.
Now, I’d never be one to complain about my job (save for the fact that I’m doing it right now, but nevermind that). You get paid decently for work that’s fun, not all that difficult and most importantly comes with free movies. I saw “Sex and the City 2,” “Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore” and “The Oogieloves.” Why? Because I could without feeling the miserable guilt of missing $10 in my wallet.
During the holiday season, though, the movie theater business is anything but the most wonderful time of the year. The theater, you see, is one of the few places that stays open every day of the year (except in Wisconsin when the Packers are in the Super Bowl). When people are all alone on the holidays or out of conversation topics with their relatives, the only real option for escape is the movie theater.
And sweet buttery popcorn, can people be grumpy. I shouldn’t say everyone, but for every one person who says thanks for working on Christmas and genuinely wants to know what you thought about the movie they’re seeing, there’s another person waiting to spill all of their rage about obscenely priced movie tickets or popcorn combos.
Since it is the season of giving, I’ll give you some easy pointers on how to avoid getting eye rolls from your local theater’s tuxedoed staff.
The easiest way to get on the bad side of a theater worker is to complain about the prices. Trust me, we know the tickets and popcorn are overpriced, but there’s literally nothing the powerless high school student behind the box office or vending stand can do about it.
It’s not like the employees see much of that revenue anyway. Movie ticket costs are high because studios take almost all of it. “Star Wars: Episode I” infamously took 90 percent of the opening weekend ticket sales. As a result, theaters need to charge massively for concession items because that’s the only way they can stay in business.
And while we’re on the topic of food, please pick up your garbage at the end of the movie. Don’t drop your two large popcorn bins, three soda cups and empty boxes of Raisinets and Sno-Caps on the ground. Yes, the ushers are there for a reason, but that doesn’t excuse laziness. They probably have five or six other packed auditoriums to clean up in that hour, so the less cleaning that needs to be done, the faster the crowds can happily plop into the seats.
This shouldn’t even have to be said, but don’t use your cell phone during the movie. It isn’t 2000 anymore. Cell phone etiquette isn’t new. Take two hours, disconnect from Twitter, Facebook and texting for a while and enjoy a good story. Your tweet or text probably wasn’t that clever anyway.
My last nugget of advice is to do some research before heading off to the theater. Make sure you have the right movie time for the right movie. Read a couple of movie reviews while you’re at it, too (I’m not just saying that for self-promotional reasons, either). This past Christmas, I witnessed a mother and her young son buy tickets for a showing of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” The assumably uncomfortable car ride home could’ve been avoided if somebody had read a review or synopsis at some point. And several teary-eyed Christmases could’ve been thwarted if some savvy parents read a few reviews for “Marley & Me” before taking the whole family.
A lot of these rules really just come down to common courtesy, something that customers – and admittedly workers, too – can lose sight of during the hectic hubbub of the holiday season. The craziness can make anyone irritable, but if we all remember the holiday spirit, a trip to the cinema can be as magical as the film on the screen.
I’m sure we’ll still have our disagreements, but I think we can agree on one thing: The absence of another “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie is the best Christmas gift of all.