Watching movies on the big screen can be comforting for many. Of course it has its perks, such as enjoying a giant bucket of buttery popcorn while watching the movie on a giant screen, with surround sound. The concession stands, the ambience, the eardrum-rattling sound systems and everything else is loved by billions around the globe. Of course the industry is a big business but there are things that movie theater employees will never tell you. For instance, have you ever wondered why the price of popcorn is more expensive than the movie ticket itself? Here, we are listing how theaters get you to spend way too much, and other behind-the-scenes info that only theater employees would know.
1. Movie theater popcorn is sold at a 1,275% markup. A bag of popcorn that costs 37 cents to make can easily sell for $5.
Almost all of us have experienced the overpriced popcorn at the concession stand. There’s a reason why movie theater popcorn is expensive and it’s not because they use high quality products to make them. Although theaters have the right to show new movies, they have to share ticket revenues with the movie distributors. While some distributors demand almost 80% of the profits, others can demand more. Concession stands on the other hand are owned and operated by the theaters, so any profit they make will help support the theater to stay afloat.
At least for the first two to three months, most of the ticket profits go to the movie distributor. This is another reason why some movie theaters keep playing popular movies for longer periods, so they can collect the ticket revenue after three or more months. (source)
2. Due to the tight shift times, movie theater employees do not clean the theaters properly.
It’s a known fact that movie theaters are extremely dirty. An investigation discovered that the seats, hand rests and even the floors are extremely dirty with some containing fecal matter. Microbiologists tested multiple theaters across the United States and discovered that harmful skin organisms and fecal matter was present almost everywhere within the theaters. Although employees tend to clean the theaters during breaks between movies, they only sweep the floors and pickup the trash. A CBS4 News investigation found that theater floors in both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties had the presence of E-Coli bacteria.
According to Dr. Torruellas-Garcia, when people are stepping in the bacteria and walking around with their shoes on, they are collecting e-coli from the ground and spreading it everywhere. Another area of concern was the self-service ticket kiosks, which was also found to have high levels of bacteria present. (source 1, 2)
3. Theaters will often comp free tickets if you politely let a manager know that a screaming child or rowdy kids ruined your experience.
It can be really frustrating when you have been eagerly waiting to enjoy your favorite movie and when the time comes, there’s a screaming child sitting right next to you. This is not unusual and the practice is common among parents who think that the age can be used as an excuse for their behavior. If you ever encounter such an experience, you can politely let the manager know that your movie experience is being ruined. The manager then has two choices, which is to either remove the party who is causing the chaos, or to comp you for the ticket that you paid for. Most managers will do it but the key is to be polite and ask nicely. (source)
4. There are several reasons why movie theater popcorn smells so good.
Movie theater popcorn is buttery and delicious, and no matter how many times we try to make it at home, it’s never the same. There are several reasons why movie theater popcorn smells and tastes better. First of all, they do not use real butter, instead butter flavored oil is used, which prevents the popcorn from becoming soggy. According to Kristi Weimerskirch, an employee at the Marcus Theater in Madison, Wisconsin for two years, employees were always told to refer to it as butter flavoring instead of butter.
Some movie theaters also use a combination of canola and coconut oil to get the unique taste; or cook the kernels in a mixture of oil and buttery salt. Since movie theaters are not required to label the nutrition information on their products, they have their own secret recipe, which they use to make the popcorn taste nostalgic. (source 1, 2)
5. Snack combos don’t always save you money. A lot of combos don’t actually offer many advantages beyond the little paper holder that binds all the items together.
A trip to the movie theater can end up be much more expensive than you had planned. Since movie theaters rely heavily on concessions to stay afloat, they find innovative ways to trick the consumers. A 2015 report from the National Association of Theater Owners revealed that the average movie ticket price in the United States is $8.61. At the same time, a bag of popcorn can cost theaters 22 cents to 35 cents per bag, and a tub can range in cost from 85 cents to $1. The theater will then sell the large tub of popcorn for $8.
In order to make it look like consumers are getting a good deal, they would usually put a combo of drinks and popcorn together. Since most moviegoers are in a hurry, they fail to realize that the combo price is not that different from ordering the products by themselves. Movie theaters utilize this and by making it look like consumers are getting a good deal, they make some quick extra bucks. (source)
6. Just because it’s warm doesn’t mean it’s fresh. Many movie theater employees admit that one of the advantages of popcorn is that it doesn’t go bad for a day or two, allowing them to sell it for up to two days before throwing it out.
Unlike most foods, popcorn doesn’t need to be served fresh out of the pot. When it comes to popcorn, most movie theaters can save it and resell it later, since customers can’t tell how old their popcorn is. Many movie theater employees have anonymously revealed that on quiet nights, extra popcorn would be stored in trash bags and kept in the back room. The next day, it is reheated and placed in the popcorn machine where it stays warm and gives the appearance that it was freshly made. (source)
7. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, the noise level in some theaters may leave moviegoers at risk for future hearing problems.
Movie theaters often crank up the volume in order to make the movie experience thrilling. According to the American Hearing Research Foundation, movies are “a source of premature hearing reduction”. Kit Frank, AuD, audiologist, NYU Langone Medical Center, explains that we have to stay beyond a sound level of 85 decibels. Anything above that can cause serious damage to our eardrums. An investigation by a TODAY reporter discovered that the sound within movie theaters exceed 100 decibels. Although Hollywood movies are made using industry standard methods that limit the volume to a certain level, it’s up to each individual movie theater to control the volume. When you leave a movie theater and your ears start ringing, it’s a sign that you could potentially have some damage from the loud noise. (source)
8. While most movie theater employees will let minor infractions go, such as sneaking food inside, if they catch someone filming a movie on their phone, they won’t hesitate to call the police. The MPAA even gives them a $500 reward for foiling the attempts of anyone trying to record a movie.
While some employees might let you sneak in food or let you catch a double feature, recording a movie or even taking pictures is something they won’t let you get away with. In the movie industry, piracy is a big concern and employees take every measure possible to stop it from happening. If they find someone recording inside a movie theater, they won’t hesitate to call the police. The MPAA even gives them a $500 reward for foiling the attempts of anyone trying to record a movie. During pre-release screenings and premieres, employees are also given night-vision goggles and other spy tech devices to closely monitor movie goers. (source)
9. There is no one in the projection booth.
Unlike the olden days, projectors used in movie theaters today are digitalized. This means that they do not require a person to constantly stand beside them to turn them on and off. Usually in the mornings, projectors need to be turned on and programmed. After the process of loading and queuing the daily schedule of movies, previews, commercials and ads, the projector is all by itself for the rest of the day, unless there’s some issue that needs to be resolved. (source)
10. In order to get the best sound and visuals, you should sit about two-thirds of the way back to the center as close as possible. This is where sound engineers usually sit to calibrate the sound for the movie theater.
In order to get the best movie experience, experts suggest that you sit about two-thirds of the way back, as close to the center as possible. Since the introduction of stadium seating, the rows are arranged on a series of terraces or steps, instead of the 15-degree floor slope you find in conventional movie theaters. Since this method requires each row to sit 12 to 15 inches higher than the row in front of it, it not only eliminates obstructed views, but also allows one to listen to the sounds properly. Sitting one or two seats from the exact center of the row provides the best movie experience since the right and left speakers are equalized for the center. (source)