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The Movie Theater Life

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Rodgers Theater in Missouri

Rodgers Theater in Missouri

Michael Gäbler

Michael Gäbler

Rodgers Theater in Missouri

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Disclaimer: Many instances of this story have been redacted or rewritten to protect those who may be impacted by this article, including myself. The experiences I am disclosing in this article are also not representative of my employer or every movie theater employee, manager, or owner.

 

The entertainment industry; a life of glitz, glamour, and gold. Being a part of this magnificent industry grants you a ticket to the life of popularity, or so you thought. I am a movie theater employee so that technically makes me a part of the entertainment industry. For anybody who wants to be a part of this dramatic and cultured world, the first step is perhaps to be a movie theater employee yourself.

Early last year, I was hired by Movie Theater A which then was bought out by Movie Theater B and then immediately transitioned to the latter about a week after I was hired. I was trained twice in the span of a week (one training for Theater A’s policies and then another training for Theater B’s policies). I guess I cannot complain since my first training was led by two fellas named Collin and Mo, who decided that it was important to show me where all of the vaping spots in the theater are, (I don’t vape, they wanted to show me so they could vape without being caught by the managers) and what an illusive code over the radio was (I am not discussing what the code as this is a school publication). My second training was carried out by a Crew Lead who was much more qualified than Collin and Mo.

What followed was a logistical and administrative nightmare that was the transition from Theater A to Theater B. Co-workers seemed frustrated at Theater B’s strict policies that are a stark contrast to the more relaxed approach that Theater A took. Managers also seemed very tense for reasons that were and probably still are above my pay grade.

After the transition period, my employment became much more normal. However, there is usually nothing normal about being a movie theater employee. Whether it is jousting with mop carts and brooms or singing karaoke in an empty theater at 3 AM, every shift is different.  Not only are the tasks required to maintain a movie theater unique, but also the diverse, social, and exciting co-workers that one can meet at a theater can be found nowhere else. As described by my former Crew Lead named Craig, a movie theater provides a great social atmosphere as everyone is your age and your managers are only a few years older than you.

Not only have I met new people from different schools, I have also become friends with some students at Air Academy who also work at the theater. Caleb Holdeman, Brandon Salamon, and Michael Hicks (All three of these students no longer work at the theater and I am not going to disclose the names of the AAHS students that currently I work with for work and privacy reasons. Caleb and Michael have also graduated from AAHS) are just a few of the Air Academy students I have worked with. You also get to meet over 70 new people when you start working at a movie theater.

This number increases as movie theaters have a very high turnover rate. While this can be frustrating at times (especially when one of my co-workers decided to skip his shifts a week into his employment, leaving me to work overtime on Christmas Day), it also provides an opportunity to meet many new people. If you don’t like the staff, wait like a month and it is almost guaranteed that someone will quit or someone will be hired. With such a high turnover rate as well, you quickly find that you become a senior staff member after only being employed for a couple of months. Being one of the oldest, you are trusted more and given increased opportunities to work on your own and sometimes even boss others around.

What is also unique about being a movie theater employee is the two departments that you can be put into. For the theater I work at, there is the concessions department and the door department. While I have dove into concessions a couple of times, I am primarily a part of the door staff. The door staff is in charge of the security of the theater, cleaning the theaters, and basically anything that does not involve selling tickets or food to customers.

We are the annoying people who stand at the ticket podium and make sure you don’t sneak outside food or drink into the theaters as well (We apologize if we have had to take food from you but we can actually get fired if we are caught by a manager that actually enforces that rule). Which leads on to another thing, since my corporate employers have started enforcing the bag check policy, many seem to be afraid that we will take away the candy that you bought. However, many of the employees do not care whether or not you bring outside food or drink in. Many of the higher level managers also do not care whether or not you bring food or drink in. There have been instances where I have told my co-workers that I am sneaking food in when I am going to watch a movie and they just chuckle and let me go by. If you are going to sneak food in, however, we do ask that you throw it away and not leave it to us because it can get the ticket podium employee in trouble and we are there to clean up the theater’s trash, not yours.

Regardless of whether or not we care enough, the door staff at Theater B can often be an intense and high-pressure environment. During busier times of the year, we can see well over 5 thousand people visit the theater a day. This means that in a door staff of around 2 to 16 people, one door employee can be cleaning up after 300+ people at a single time. This task is even harder when theater turnaround times are strictly enforced by the servers running the theaters, managers, and impatient customers. The door staff is also tasked with keeping everything stocked, including the soda machines (which, by the way, are the biggest pain since they always break down and you get soda syrup stained on your skin), and clean in the lobby and the hallways. Cleaning trashed theaters and destroyed bathrooms is also a very painstaking and disgusting job that will make many people want to throw up. I can safely say that I have cleaned up every bodily fluid that has come out of a human, and even some fluids from various animals. The door staff also has to deal with angry and drunk customers. Many find that to be a bad thing, but nothing gets me more excited and giddy than when I get to kick somebody out of a theater, especially if I know them. It is probably my favorite part of the job.

While being on door staff is a tough job, the benefits are some of the best for a teenager in high school. Sure, it is a minimum wage job when you start (there are plenty of opportunities to get promoted), but as a teenager who doesn’t have to pay any bills or heavy taxes besides income and sales tax, it doesn’t really matter. The benefits, however, are why I am still employed at the theater despite having a better second job. Free movies, drinks, and popcorn whenever you want is the main feature. Regular employees are also allowed to bring one other guest for free while associates and managers get to bring more for free. When you are not going to for free, you also get tickets for a discounted price and can get discounted tickets for all of your friends. The hot foods like pizzas, pretzels, and hot dogs are heavily discounted for employees. There are also occasional ‘friends and family’ showings on Mondays where employees get to bring as many people as they want for a showing of a newly released movie. Employees have the opportunity to take home movie posters and some of the standees that are displayed throughout the theater. Employees at Theater B enjoy the premier movie rewards program that offers many additional benefits. There are retirement and scholarship opportunities available for eligible employees as well. There is also the occasional employee party and other little extras that also make working at the theater rewarding.

While all of these official benefits are awesome, there are also a few unofficial benefits that a movie theater employee gets to enjoy. Since a movie theater is a social outlet, many of your companions and peers will make trips to the theater. This means that a movie theater employee often has much of that ‘juicy gossip’ as they see things unfold firsthand. Movie theater employees also get to learn a great deal about the entertainment industry and how it operates on a large scale, which is very helpful for those who are looking for a career in the industry. A movie theater employee also gets to learn about businesses and how they operate via firsthand experience. I can also brag that I know how to completely disassemble a Coca-Cola Freestyle machine and rebuild it. Employees often have the ability to plug in their Xbox’s or Playstations or whatever they want into the very large and loud theaters, which is an amazing experience.

Whether it is just a way to grab some pocket change or a way to kill some time, working at a movie theater is definitely an experience that I would recommend to anybody. The experiences and people I have met at the theater will last a lifetime.

 

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