I’ve been rolling this idea in my head for several weeks now.  Over the past few months I have had various issues with a few local movie theaters in my area.  Nothing all too earth shattering but hassles nonetheless.  It did get me thinking however about the state of other movie theaters around the country.  It’s no secret that ticket prices keep going up and prices at the concession stands are even worse.  I mean four dollars for a diet coke is a little extreme don’t you think?

What isn’t generally known is that theaters make very little profit from ticket sales.  Most of that goes right back to the movie studios.  Concessions is where the theaters make their money and based on the lines I’ve seen at my local theaters, business is good.  The markup is so high on some of that stuff that you end up spending more for popcorn and drinks than you did to even get in the place.  If you’ve got a family in tow a night out at the movies can cost upwards of one hundred dollars.  That’s a little crazy given the state of our economy.  But this situation has been going on for much longer than since the economy went south.

Now I will get to the point I am trying to make.  Based off how much money you have to shell out at movie theaters don’t you think you’re entitled to some level of quality when it comes to your movie going experience?  I will elaborate.

This whole thing started off when a friend of mine and I went to see Thor.  When the movie started we soon came to realize that the top three or four feet of the screen was cut off.  That was a significant part of the screen so the overall picture was diminished.  Several people went to complain and were told it was being fixed, but it never was.  To add insult to injury toward the end of the film when Thor is speaking to his mother, the movie just stopped.  After a few minutes of blackness, several people including myself got up to go say something about it.  When we found an employee he acted as if it wasn’t a big deal and came with us back into the theater.  By that time the movie had started back but it had advanced past the point where it cut off and the credits were rolling.  This prompted a lot of irritated people to come forward to find out exactly they intended to do about it.  Everyone in there followed the employee to the office where we were met by a police officer telling us all to calm down.  Everybody was calm and I felt the need for a police officer was truly unnecessary.  Then the manager comes out and tells us since we saw the majority of the movie there was nothing he could do.  At that point the need for a police officer started to become necessary.  People started speaking up and a few shouts were heard.  The manager had a mob of angry patrons on his hands.  He went back into the office and came out a few minutes later with a stack of free passes that he and the other employee began to hand out.

I was okay with the outcome and noted that they tried to make it right, but that wasn’t my only issue with this particular theater.  My friends and I often complain about the dreadfully slow service you get at the one and only concession stand and the even longer line at the ticket booth outside.  During what I would consider a Friday night rush, they would have only one person in a booth set up for at least eight people selling tickets.  Some theater even have smaller concession stands placed throughout the building.  When was the last time you saw any of them open?  That being said this wasn’t the end of the problems.

When it came time to see Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the same friend and I were there for the special Tuesday night 3D showings.  There were two that night, one at 8:45 and another at 9:00.  All was going well, we got our popcorn and drinks, good seats, we had our 3D glasses ready, then the theater darkened and the trailers started.  After almost fifteen minutes of trailers the movie started; but it wasn’t Transformers.  It was Kung Foo Panda 2!  The jackasses reeled up the wrong damn movie.  A few people jumped up and hurried out into the lobby to get it fixed and soon after the lights came back on and the screen went blank.  We sat for a few minutes and then an employee came in to tell us that due to technical problems they would be unable to show Transformers.  She offered us free passes and said that there were some seats still available for the 9:00 showing but it had already started.

Needless to say I was pissed.  Luckily when we checked on the 9:00 showing the fifteen minutes of trailers were still going on and we were able to find good seats and the crisis was adverted for the time being.  We got to see Transformers and had a free pass for out trouble.  The movie started and finished without any further problems.  I was still angry when we left the theater later that evening and a vowed that I would not be going back to that particular theater for a while.  I would use my free pass somewhere else and I would also contact the company that operated that theater to officially log a complaint, which I did the very next day.

But the troubles didn’t end there.  I went to another theater that weekend to see a movie and also had problems.  So I began formulating a blog post in my mind.  I started and stopped actually typing it on two different occasions.  I didn’t think it was worthy of posting for the whole Internet to read.  Then I started to wonder this morning about how many other people walk out of their local theater dissatisfied with the experience.  With the price of tickets and all, I have some reasonable expectations of the level of service they provide.

I am not a habitual complainer and I try not to create a scene when I do, but there comes a time when these theater employees and managers need to be called out for bad service.  I can easily drop forty bucks every time I go see a movie.  I don’t expect someone to kiss my ass, but I do expect certain little things for my money.  I’m not above waiting my turn in line for tickets or snacks.  But when there is just two people working two lines fifteen to twenty people deep and there are other employees just standing around doing nothing, then it’s time to do something.  I’ve seen it over and over again in more places than just movie theaters.

I have no idea what it takes to be a manager at movie theater, but judging by the level of service I have gotten just this summer at two of my local theaters, it cannot be that hard.  I’m sure I couldn’t do the job because I lack the required college degree in theater management or whatever.  Proper distribution of manpower, making sure speakers and projection equipment are in working order, ensuring that the climate controls are set properly and just making sure your guests, your paying customers enjoy their movie going experience isn’t too much to ask.  Making sure there is enough ice in my drink and my popcorn doesn’t taste scorched are important too, but let’s stick with the basics for now.

For what we’re expected to pay for a ticket, can we at least expect a basic level of quality once we’re inside?  I don’t think this is too much to ask.  With the popularity of 3D and IMAX, ticket prices only get that much higher.  Why is it so difficult to expect basic customer service these days?  What you get more of these days is people telling you it’s not their jobs while the other people have no damn idea how to do their jobs.

I think we as customers should expect and by means demand that we enjoy our movie going experience.  Theater owners and managers should be held accountable for customer satisfaction and complaints.  I think they should do more to make sure their customers are happy.  I’m not saying that their jobs aren’t hard, they probably are, but customer satisfaction is a part of their job and from what I’ve seen lately, they are failing at it.

So I am interested in what you think.  If you’ve had a bad movie theater experience I want to know about it.  Please post your comments and share your story.  By the way, in my formal complaint to the company of this theater I marked on their email form that I would like to be contacted by someone regarding the issue.  To date I have not heard a single word back.  Need I say more?