What it’s like working at a Movie Theater

By: Michael Olivares

Working at a movie theater sounds cool, people expect it to be just selling popcorn or tickets, but there’s way more to it than just that.

First of all, if it wasn’t for my friend Mia Rodriguez getting the job, and then me applying shortly after, I probably wouldn’t have applied, and got the job. My previous job was working at a dairy, so you can imagine how big of a change that was, going from cows to guests. That’s one thing-they’re not called customers, they’re called guests. Also it’s not a complaint, it’s a “concern.” Management is very strict on the terminology, for example, when we had corporate visit, they had us call employees, “Team Members.”

Terminology isn’t the only thing. Also appearance, dress code is very strict, and they have random dress code checks. Management comes out to make sure we have our name tags, pure black long socks, and a belt. You don’t and it costs you a write up.

Concessions, selling popcorn sounds easy right, that’s because it is, but following our 5 steps, for each guest can be a pain.

  1. Welcome the guest with a welcoming hello, and a big smile
  2. Ask if you can start them off with a large popcorn and large drink
  3. Up sale is possible (Ex. guest buys medium, “would you like to upgrade to the large for a dollar more and it comes with a free refill”)
  4. Recommend items they haven’t ordered
  5. Ask if they’re loyalty members

The only way I could say that these steps can cause pressure, is when our secret shopper is in the building. If the secret shopper catches you messing up, it’s grounds for a write up. Concessions can get really crazy, sometimes we have all 9 registers being used and lines that fill up the lobby, and to add to that the 4 registers in the bar are also being used. There are also days where we can be very slow, and DEEP clean.

Here’s a little insider to why movie theater food is so expensive.

All the money made selling tickets is given to movie producers, directors, studios, etc. So the only money the movie theater can profit is selling food in the concession stands, and renting out screens, or putting advertisements on the big screen.

So it really depends on the day, for example Mondays, who goes to the movies on a Monday right? A slow day is 200-800 tickets sold. The most tickets I’ve ever seen sold for one day is 4,000, that’s when big movies like Star Wars, or Avengers come out.

Working as an usher is very calm, but can go by very slow, you’re constantly looking at the time, so it feels like forever. Ushers clean screens, so when you decide to leave popcorn on seats, or drinks in the cup holders, the ushers go in and take care of it. We have sets, where we jump from cleaning one screen, to the next, and sometimes we have to be quick, or split up to get them done. Also we have to be keeping up with our checklist.

Our checklist consist of 4 things- men’s restroom, women’s restroom, exteriors, and screen checks. You walk into the bathroom, pick up any trash with a dust pan and broom. Exterior same thing, but you walk outside and do a perimeter of the building. Why? Because the presentation is key.

Screen checks can be interesting, but also a pain. You ever been in a movie, and seen someone walking with a red light. That’s an usher. Basically we go into every screen, walk up both sides of the stairs, make sure none of the guest are on their phones, snoring, have outside foods, or disrupting the peace of the movie. We do NOT have to give guest a warning for being on their phones, before the movie starts, we have about 3 to 4 ads that clearly state No cell phones, No interruptions, or No movie and No refund. Most of us understand, maybe it was your mom, your wife, your kids, and we do give warnings, but just be aware that not all ushers will let it slide easily.

During our set gaps, ushers are assigned screens, and given the task to show guest to their seats. This isn’t because we believe you don’t know where your seat is, it just makes it easier for us to avoid any concerns. Ushers deal with little conflicts, like someone sitting in the wrong seat, or kids running around during a show, anything that might not let moviegoers enjoy their movie.

As far as no outside food or drinks, most guest believe that we don’t want them bringing food in so that they have no other choice but to spend money on our “expensive” food. That’s not the case, we don’t allow outside foods or drinks, in regards of liability purposes and health hazards.

Box officers are typically the first “team members’ you will see. You go a pick your assigned seating. Keep this in mind, ROW A, is closer to the screen, as opposed to ROW Z, which is the farthest away from a screen. We also offer our kiosk and mobile app to purchase tickets, a few common mistakes we have when buying tickets online are buying for the wrong date, or buying from the wrong theater. Usually when they buy from the wrong, we give them a call, let them know, they refund the transaction, and then you must re purchase new tickets when you’re there.

Other positions include

Door-the team member at either podium, ripping tickets.

Bar-our bartenders.

Projectionists-the specialist who keep the movies running on time, keep the volume stable, and WAY more things you wouldn’t even expect.

Shift leads-our floor staff supervisors, who keep us all in check

and Managers.

Like I said, working at a movie theaters is cool, but it’s a pain when it comes to weekends, for example, we have prom on April 28th, but the Movie Avengers comes out on the 27th. Asking for the day off on Avengers weekend had me a little shaken. I was afraid I was going to have to work, on prom night. Eventually it all worked out, my managers understood I was a senior, and this was going to be my last prom, but little do they know I still have to ask for graduation day off, as well as Gradnite, Western Week Pool Party and Lip sync.

I hope this article helps anyone if they ever consider working at a movie theater, just remember, its not a customer, it’s a GUEST.

And no, I cannot hook you up with free movie tickets.


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