A Top Ten List by NWFF’s Membership Service’s volunteer:
(A word of Warning: This blog post contains language one might regard as, shall we say, PG-13?)
Since 2000, I’ve both worked in multiplexes and volunteered at NWFF:
here are the top ten things of my decade that I won’t miss about working in a big commercial movie theater.
1. My Big Fat Greek Diaper
One afternoon during the 40 week run of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, an elderly woman came out of the theater to profusely thank my manager for screening such a wonderful movie, but that she was “sorry, but the movie was too good to miss!” Sorry for what? my manager asked. The woman abruptly left and my manager went into the theater to find a runny puddle of still warm urine leaking out of a makeshift diaper made out of concession napkins. The thing I don’t miss is projecting and therefore having to watch several minutes of that movie. The pee bothered me much less.
2. Comic Book Movies
Boy Howdy, am I glad to not be working in a big theater during the releases of movies like Iron Man, Wanted, and the 3 hour long commercial for male masturbation and electric guitars, Watchmen (brilliant American satirist Harry Knowles says, “I WATCHED THE FUCKING WATCHMEN AND FUCKING LOVED IT!”). Why do so many people packed into these movies wear tshirts with the names and marketing logos of the things they like? Hey, I like comics just as much as the next person with corrective lenses, and I know comic books can be unabashedly literal sometimes, but going to the Spiderman movie while wearing a Spiderman shirt and rubber face mask seems a little… obvious.
3. Commercial Theater Resources
I’m not one to back down from even the dumbest dare, and I don’t miss guzzling dixie cups of liquid butter flavor mixed with frozen Cherry Coke, or watching our 37 year old floor manager wear a large popcorn bucket as a hat because our Down’s Syndrome ticket taker “daaaaared him!” Yeah, that happened. Deal with it.
4. Playing the Enforcer
The worst part of working the theater floor in a big operation was playing small-town TSA agent. Many of my co-workers, under the hawk-like eyes of management, would grab outside coffee cups from the clutches of movie goers; some bootlickers started unilaterally searching large purses and asking to inspect the contents of shopping bags. Me? I figured if you just paid money to see the latest Adam Sandler vehicle, you can bring in whatever salve you want. Plus the smells of the dreaded “outside food and beverages” helped to mask the stench of months-old urine that I never cleaned up.
5. Free Pass to Mediocrity
Have you ever had a free pass to see any and every movie in wide release? Forget about discriminating tastes, I saw everything from Deep Blue Sea to All About the Benjamins to Insomnia to Maid in Manhattan over the course of a few years. After watching movies trying to teach me about Life and Love and ToughTimes and Winning Not In The Literal Sense But In The Bigger Sense,the only lesson I learned is that even my most wasteful time (say, staring at the carpet in silence) is more valuable than a free shittymovie.
6. Fancy Pants
Why do movie theater uniforms only come in Xtra Large? Over the years, I’ve worn stiff polo shirts and starchy vests tailored to snugly fit Suge Knight. Uh, clip-on bowties.
7. Sharing Bathrooms
I think the thing I miss the very least is sharing a bathroom with the customers. Can you imagine working eight hours a day, several days a week feeding popcorn (which is just hot fiber and roughage) and liters of super fizzy fountain soda to people who love to sit down for hours at a time? Shudder.
8. The Neighborhood
Chain movie theaters tend to either be inside malls or the anchor of a strip mall. I hated working in those buildings because of the fluorescent lighting, constant brain-hating sneaker on linoleum squeaks, emotional shoppers with blond highlights and unrealistically high levels of self-esteem (“I’m worth it!!”), and the vomit bag smells of the food court. My manager hated it because she thought that malls were obvious terrorist targets in a post 9/11 world. God, if only, Vicky. If only.
Once word gets out that you have free passes to all the commercial theaters in town, friends start coming out of the woodwork. People like your roommate’s ponytailed boyfriend who wants tickets to Cradle 2 tha’ Grave, or that frizzy haired theater art major who absolutely must see the employee’s preview of the latest installment of the Harry Potter saga. Uh, hey Michelle, did you ever think that I want to go see it a-l-o-n-e??
When management sat down to pick the coming attractions, they looked at the numbers and ultimately, scheduled soft-core zombie movies or rom-coms starring young people with big teeth. I suspect the workplace problems listed above stem from the nature of big business movie theaters: profit over art, sedentary entertainment over intellectual engagement, market trends over empowering filmmakers. I feel so much better about donating my time to support an organization like NWFF because our programming and classes and presence in the the Northwest support the cinematic community and further the art form. I can tell you that I’ll never wear another XXL polo shirt ever again just so Will Smith can shit out another inspirational cross-marketing blitz at $12 a head.
Fortunately, NWFF avoids most of these pitfalls AND there are often openings to volunteer your precious time all over the building: scooping non-fake-butter-soaked popcorn and selling our concessions (which aren’t marked up the usual 800%), projecting our thoughtfully picked movies, working in our office doing the admin bidding of the super cool staff (uh, we’re cool, right?), and pitching in with facilities. And instead of hazarding a run-in with an agitated gastrointestinal bomb, maybe you’ll meet a fellow cineast who gets excited about reading subtitles. Please support NWFF by coming to see a movie, volunteering your time, or making a financial gift to help further our mission!