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Movie Theater Secrets Cinema Owners Would Like To Keep Hidden

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Kids Sneaking Into Movie Theater

For many of us, movie theaters are places of magic. You walk into that grandiose structure to the tempting smell of fresh popcorn and see an amazing and sometimes highly anticipated film. That cinematic magic doesn’t come from nowhere. In fact, theaters work pretty hard to push it upon moviegoers. However, behind that thin veil of magic are a ton of secrets that some movie theater owners would prefer to keep hidden for various reasons. Read on to find out exactly what.

1. Popcorn’s Not As Fresh As You Think

When you walk through the doors of your local cinema, your nostrils are immediately flooded with the smell of fresh popcorn. Once you get a whiff of that tempting aroma being whisked around by the air conditioners, you can’t help but buy a box, and why not buy one? After all, popcorn couldn’t get any more fresh than it is at your local movie theater, right?

Movie Theater Popcorn Isn't Fresh

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Actually, it’s way more fresh anywhere else you buy it. While movie theaters have their tricks of making the popcorn appear fresh, they actually take full advantage of the crunchy snack’s one-to-two-day shelf-life. Next time you’re munching from a bucket of popcorn, keep in mind that the kernels may have popped days earlier. This goes especially for matinee lovers.

2. Crying Babies Can Mean Free Tickets

The ideal movie theater experience is supposed to consist of you and other movies lovers watching an amazing flick on a big screen. The lighting is completely out, the sound is top-notch, and everyone is silently taking in the piece of art before them. More often than not, this is a mere fantasy. If you aren’t being annoyed by a miscellaneous group of chatting friends or someone texting in the row in front of you, it’s going to be the piercing sounds of a crying baby that’s going to get you.

Crying Babies In The Movie Theater

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Don’t despair, don’t storm out of the theater mid-movie, and don’t yell at the poor family. Simply go to the manager during or after the movie and explain the issue in a calm manner. While it isn’t guaranteed, often times the manager will give you free tickets to another movie. Cinemas are all about having that cinematic experience and theater owners often want it to be a good one.

3. Nobody Is In The Projection Booth

When the film starts rolling, we usually have the idea that a projectionist is up in that projection booth making all the movie magic happen. We can see him now, an aging film buff re-watching the same movies over and over with a romantic tear tumbling down his cheek. Sadly, the projectionist with a heart for cinema is mere fiction these days.

Projectionist In Movie Theater

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With the recent rise of digital projection, there’s no longer a need for a worker to watch over the projector throughout the whole film anymore. These days, getting a movie to run is pretty much a job for anyone. The modern projectionist is likely a teenage worker who runs in for a quick second and flips a switch. 

4. Theater’s Aren’t As Clean As You Think

Time is moving much faster these days and it has definitely affected movie theaters, especially their cleaning staff. While there used to be hours between movie showtimes, that just isn’t the case anymore. Once a movie has ended, the theater cleaning staff has about twenty minutes before the next batch of moviegoers begin trickling in. Sometimes two movies, or even three, end at the same time and then the cleaners really have to hustle. As you can imagine, this doesn’t allow for the most thorough job.

Movie Theater cleaning staff

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When you first walk into that cinema, things may look good at first glance. However, we recommend taking an extra look around. It won’t be long before you see that the cleaners did a spotty job. At the end of the day, one can’t really blame them. When time is limited, a cleaner has to create the illusion of cleanliness and sweep some of the mess behind the seats. We recommend you help out and throw your leftover wrappings, boxes, and drinks in the trash when you leave.

5. Don’t Even Think About Bootlegging a Movie

Movie theaters put up with a lot of antics. They might give you a passive finger wave if they catch you sneaking into a movie, or give you a warning if you’re talking too loud. Most of the time, the worst they will ever do is throw you out of the theater. However, don’t take this to mean that you can get away with anything.

Movie Theater Bootlegger

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There is one thing that they have zero tolerance for, and that’s bootlegging. If they catch you filming a movie on your phone or camcorder, you might find yourself behind bars because they will call the police on you. Bootleggers are the film industry’s worst enemy, as they keep people out of theater seats. This hurts cinemas and movie studios. Also, keep in mind that every time a movie theater reports a bootlegger, they are rewarded $500 by the MPAA.

6. Theater Noise Levels Come With Health Risks

When it comes to movie theaters, a lot of pride comes from bragging about their surround sound and high quality speaker system. No doubt, when you slip into that seat to watch a movie like Star Wars, that sound quality leaves for one heck of a movie-going experience. The sound of a firing blaster and a John Williams soundtrack never sounded better.

Movie Theater Noise Levels

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Consequently, that cutting edge sound doesn’t come without a downside. That amazing sound system can be hazardous for those with ear problems. The Center for Hearing and Communication has recently reported that the noise level in some theaters can sometimes contribute to hearing loss. This is especially true if they are playing an action movie, which can produce a noise level likewise to a rock concert.

7. Digital Projectors Have Ran Small Theaters To The Ground

At the end of the day, digital projectors are a double-edged sword for the movie business. Digital film making as a whole has made the costs of producing a movie plunge significantly. While that will certainly put a smile on Hollywood’s face, those charming small theaters around the world have been getting the sour side of the lollipop.

Small Movie Theaters Closeing

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Digital projectors are far more expensive than the film projectors of yesteryear. With most films being digitally recorded, the smaller theaters that can’t afford the projectors have completely ran out of business. This is definitely bad news for anyone who enjoys the quaint pleasure of taking in a movie at a single screen theater.

8. Think Twice About That Pretzel

Hot dogs and popcorn aside, another popular staple sold at the theater concession stand is the pretzel. People melt even at the thought of that warm and salty treat. Add some cinnamon and custard sauce to that pretzel and you have the greatest snack on the menu.

Movie Theater Pretzels

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Sadly, movie theater pretzels aren’t getting the same amount of care that your Wetzel’s Pretzels and Auntie Anne’s pretzels are getting. Once you unwrap that movie theater pretzel, you might find yourself biting into something as dry as the Mojave desert. Sadly, the method that the theaters use to keep those pretzels warm also dries them out. However, at the risk of missing the previews, you can always take back your dry pretzel and ask for a fresh one.

9. Sometimes Previews Accidentally Hit The Wrong Audience

Once movie houses went digital, the game pretty much changed forever. Large commercial movie theaters were able to cut down on projectionists, saving some money and some time. However, this new technology still came with some room for errors. Someone has to enter the information into the projectors and select which movies and previews they play.

Wrong Movie Theater Previews

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Understandably, this has led to certain previews being played before the wrong movies. A good example of this is when a preview for Seth Rogen’s Sausage Party was played before a screening of Finding Dory. You can only imagine the stir that caused among the parents in the audience. That’s just Sausage Party. Think about what happens when a horror movie preview accidentally gets played before a kids movie.

10. 3D Glasses Might Land You With a Queasy Stomach

3D glasses are a movie theater staple that has come in waves over the decades. Modern audiences got their first taste of 3D with the release of James Cameron’s Avatar. Since Avatar, 3D screenings have remained prevalent in theaters across the country. However, popularity has dwindled in the past few years. This can be due to higher ticket costs or the discomfort that comes with wearing those glasses for the duration of an entire flick.

3D glasses in movie theaters

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It can also have something to do with people getting sick from wearing them. When wearing 3D glasses, the characters on screen kind of just pop out at you. This sends signals to your brain that your body is moving. That said, the inner ear has fluid that senses when actual movements take place, but since your seated, it isn’t making the connection. This mix up could leave more sensitive individuals with a bad case of nausea.

11. Friends Get In Free

Whether it be Regal, AMC or Arclight, if you have a friend that works at a movie theater, they’re about to become the most popular person in your group. Most movie theater employees are allowed to give out a few free tickets to their friends. This will definitely save you an extra $13 dollars.

Free Movie Theater Tickets

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However, before you summon up a posse of ten friends and head to the cinema, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. While some theaters won’t mind a free ticket or two, others have stricter policies regarding employees giving out tickets to friends. If your friend works at a small independent theater, probably don’t expect free entry.

12. The Money Is All In The Concession Stand

Most people would assume it’s movies behind all of the cinema’s income. After all, it is a movie theater, right? Truth be told, during the first few months of a movie showing, the cash you dish out for tickets is mostly going to the studio that distributed the film. The theater only begins benefiting from your ticket purchases after the movie has been out for two to three months. This explains why they’ll keep a really popular movie in rotation for half a year.

Movie Theater Snacks Are Everything

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When it comes to cashing in, movie theaters make most of their income from the concession stand. This explains why a bucket of popcorn, a hot dog, and a cola can end up being as expensive as a steak dinner in a decent restaurant. With that in mind, it now makes sense why they make such a big fuss about people bringing in outside food.

13. Texting Rules Are Changing

In fifteen years, mobile phones went from being regarded as a luxury item to something that’s essential to us all. You won’t be able to go five minutes in a public space without seeing at least a few people looking down at their phones. The movie theater is no exception. Before the movie starts the seating area is lit by phones. Usually they make a PSA that urges people to silence or put away their phones before the movie starts.

Texting In Movie Theaters

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Even though most people comply, there’s always a rebellious few who begin texting or taking peaks at their phone while the movie is playing. While it annoys some as it diverts their attention away from the movie, it seems it can’t be helped at this point. Some movie theater chains have thrown in the towel and are now introducing experimental open texting policies.

14. Sneaking Into Movies Is Easier Than You Think

An essential part of being a teen is meeting with your friends and plotting a way to sneak into an R-rated movie. While some would go down the elaborate path by getting a fake ID, others just had to test their luck with their looks. If you were rocking a beard at 16-years-old, you were pretty much in, but anyone with a baby face and innocent eyes had to get super creative.

Kids Sneaking Into Movie Theater

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Turns out that things never had to be that complicated. Movie theaters don’t really care about kids sneaking into R-rated movies. If you and your friends are thinking about sneaking into a movie, theater workers advise that you just don’t be too obvious about it. Buy a ticket for the latest Disney flick, and then just sneak into the movie you want to see.

15. Celebs Seeing Their Own Movies

Believe it or not, while you’re waiting in line to see one of your favorite celebrities on the big screen, that actor or actress might be standing right behind you. Most moviegoers would never think it, but it isn’t at all uncommon for celebrities to attend showings of their own movies at local theaters.

Brad and Jen at Cinema

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Among the A-listers that have done this have been Brad Pitt, Will Smith, and Gal Gadot. On one occasion, Shia LeBeouf set up a public marathon featuring every single one of his movie appearances. At the end of the day, we don’t know if they want to see the public’s honest reaction to their movie or just see themselves on the big screen.

16. You Can Be Blacklisted

Movie theaters are pretty lenient when it comes to just about anything. However, there are some select offenses that can see you permanently banned and placed on their blacklist. As we discussed before, trying to bootleg a movie is something that they take very seriously. Once caught and charged, it’s safe to assume they won’t be selling you anymore movie passes.

Getting On The Blacklist

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Also, anyone going out of their way to scam the theater in a serious way will be blacklisted. They’ll happily do you the favor of turning their heads when you sneak into a movie or bring in some outside food, so why try to scam them? Furthermore, any inappropriate behavior that is over the top will get you a life-time ban.

17. That Isn’t Popcorn Your Smelling

When it comes to the concession stand’s top selling product, it’s no big shocker that it’s the popcorn. Keeping in mind that almost all of the theater’s money comes from the concession stand, theater management goes beyond all means to make sure you want to buy that popcorn. While it isn’t the most fresh snack you can purchase, they definitely give off the illusion that it is. When you walk into a theater, you’re immediately blasted with the smell of the rich, buttery treat.

Movie Theater Popcorn Smell

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What if we told you that the enticing aroma you’re smelling isn’t popcorn? Cinema employees have revealed that they have a number of secrets behind smelling up the place. Sometimes they pop the kernels in coconut and canola oil. Other times, the smell is the result of an unnamed chemical used by the theater.

18 . Take Your Complaints To The Corporate Team

People can’t help but make complaints when something doesn’t go their way at the movie theater. When someone thinks they’re paying too much for a popcorn, they’ll begin complaining to any staff member they can find. If they think the movie they saw was bad, people won’t hesitate to let a cinema worker hear about it. Sadly, there isn’t much that the average teenage employee can do for you, but you might have better luck with the manager.

Movie Theater Complaints

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If you aren’t feeling the movie your watching, leave within the first half hour and find the manager. If you ask nicely, you might get some free tickets to a different movie. If you still aren’t satisfied, you can take things to the theater’s corporate office. Give them a call and you’re guaranteed to get some interesting results.

19. Cup Holders Are Relatively New

Can you imagine going to a movie theater and the chairs not having any cup holders? They are such a mainstay of the current cinema experience, that the mere thought of them not being there is quite baffling. That said, cup holders are actually a relatively new thing in movie cinemas. The first cinema opened up in 1905 and as you can imagine, things were pretty different back then.

Cup Holders came late

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For over seventy years, movie theater seats did not have those beloved cup holders. They slowly started appearing in 1981, and from there they crept across the world. Before that, you’d have to stick the drink between your legs or put it under your chair and just hope for the best. Can you imagine how many drinks were accidentally kicked over back in those days?

20. Don’t Trust A Snack Combo

So you’re forking over $9 dollars for a large popcorn and an additional $7 for a cup of cola. As you reach for your wallet, you can’t help but feel taken advantage of. At that very moment, the teenage girl working the concession offers you a combo. The price is still high, but it looks like you’re getting a better deal and more snacks. Think again!

Movie Theater Combo Scams

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Remember that movie theaters are full of trickery when it comes to their concession stands. Often times, you’ll actually end up paying a little more money than you intended to. Before you give into the theater worker’s reassuring sales pitch, bust out the phone calculator and make some calculations. Nine times out of ten, movie house combos comes with zero benefits. You’ll end up paying a couple bucks more for an additional item you didn’t even want.

21. What Are Those Pre-Movie Advertisements All About?

We can all recall a time when the movie-going experience was just a little bit different. We’d sit down in a showroom with nothing but a blank screen before us. Suddenly the lights would dim and the previews would begin to play. These days, the screen is never blank. Before the previews start, the audience is treated to an array of advertisements. When the previews finally do begin, we’re seeing commercials in between the trailers.

Movie Theater Adverts on screen

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Before going on a tirade over the advertisements, consider everything that movie theaters are up against. Not only do most of their proceeds come from the concession stands, but online streaming and illegal downloads have swayed a lot of people away from going to cinemas. That’s not to mention the people that are always sneaking in their own food. These advertisements are just a little way of earning some extra cash for the theater.

22. No Option For No Butter

You can always ask for no butter when buying popcorn, but rest assured that there will be butter. Little do most people know, but movie theater popcorn is all pre-buttered. When asking for no butter, the concession stand worker will smile, nod, and hand you a bag of popcorn while knowing full well that butter is on there.

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People who don’t mind the butter usually end up eating buttered popcorn topped with more butter. Some cinemas have a self-buttering station where moviegoers drown their already buttered popcorn in more liquid butter. It’s fun to think that most people see popcorn as a healthy alternative to a chocolate bar or ice cream. Store bought popcorn is, but movie theater popcorn is actually one of the unhealthiest snacks you can grab.

23. Theaters Are Taking Creative Measures To Stop Teenage Antics

By now, teens know just about every trick in the book when it comes to sneaking into movies. While most movie theaters don’t go out of their way to stop teenagers from getting into R-rated movies, some do and they’ve had to step up their teen-catching game. Most cinemas have now equipped themselves with cameras.

Security Outside Of Movie Theater

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With this in mind, security can keep an eye out for a group of baby-faced teens going where they shouldn’t be. However, a security guard can only keep his eye on so many cameras at once. A more effective method they’ve began using is placing the R-rated movies in theaters closest to the ticket taker’s station. In this way, the security guard stationed there can see which tickets teens have bought and where they’re going.

24. Gaming On The Big Screen

Landing a part-time job at a movie theater is every teen’s dream. Beyond the paycheck, working at a movie theater is 100 percent perks. You’ll be in a youthful environment, it’ll guarantee interesting stories, and there’s all the free popcorn you can eat. Working at the cinema beats the heck out of flipping burgers at McDonald’s any day.

Video Games Played At Theater

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That said, things may have been even better a decade ago. Before new theater technology came along and complicated things, workers were able to set up their video game consoles to the big screen. Once all the guests were gone for the night, the employees used to hit the biggest theater they could find and pass the hours playing Xbox and PlayStation on the big screen. That would definitely leave for the most epic game of Guitar Hero, ever!

25. The Concession Stand’s Subliminal Message

When it comes to buying all those friendly overpriced treats, the movie theater is tapping right into your consciousness. They are pulling every trick in the book. For instance, it’s no accident that the concession stand is right across from the entrance way. Before you can even make it into your theater, you are forced to pass by all those tasty snacks and smell that delicious popcorn.

Movie Theater Concession Stand

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That’s only the beginning of it. Let’s not forget about all those charming pre-show bumpers they have of the dancing hot dogs and juggling popcorn. There are even cinemas equipped with ventilation systems that pump the popcorn aroma into the movie theater so that the audience will begin feeling hungry as they watch the movie.

Sources: Moneyversed, Ranker, Screenrant

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