The Sneakiest Secrets As Told By Movie Theater Employees

These days, going to the movies can be an expensive ordeal. Unless you’re going on a discounted night, which is usually packed, you’re more than likely going to burn a hole in your wallet paying for your tickets, and even more if you find yourself at the concession stand. However, there are secrets about going to the movies that the theaters don’t want you to know but employees learn the longer they work there. Here are some of the best ones!

The Popcorn Usually Isn’t Fresh

Woman filling up popcorn bucket
Whitney Hayward/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Whitney Hayward/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Even though most customers assume that the popcorn they are being served is fresh, considering that it’s usually served out of the popcorn maker, it isn’t always the case. Something that theaters take advantage of is that few customers would ever be able to tell how old their popcorn is, so they save money by selling old batches.

According to one theater employee, on slow nights, extra popcorn will be stored in large bags for days at a time until it’s ready to be reheated and served to moviegoers.

You’re Not As Sly As You Think

Young people buying tickets
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Of course, one of the most common rules that almost everyone breaks is bringing in your own snacks to the movies. The employees don’t blame you either, because nobody wants to pay the theater’s price for a candy bar that’s worth the price of multiple candy bars anywhere else.

That being said, they also almost always know when people are trying to sneak snacks/drinks in, with some people even going to extreme lengths like faking a pregnancy! Not that they necessarily care, but they might get in trouble if a manager sees them let someone in who is clearly breaking the rules.

Employees Get To Watch The Movies Before The Public

Audience in a theater
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images
Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

If you notice employees walking through the theater during a film, you might feel bad that the movie is being ruined for them. Well, the chances are that they’ve already seen it. At most theaters, employees get to watch the movies for free before they are released to the public.

Not only is this to make sure that there’s nothing wrong with the projector and the sound, but also so employees can answer questions people may have about a particular movie.

There Are Ways To Get Refunds

Customers in line to buy tickets
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If you pay for a movie ticket only for the theater to be full of disrespectful audience members or crying babies, there’s a high likelihood that you could get your money back or a free pass for another day.

When you walk into a movie theater, the manager’s and employee’s priority is that you have the best moviegoing experience possible, therefore returning to that theater. If offering you a free ticket because you were dissatisfied means they keep your patronage, it’s no skin off their back.

Going To The Movies Can be Harmful On Your Ears

Movie attendees sitting down
Araya Diaz/Getty Images
Araya Diaz/Getty Images

Even though the sound system in theaters is one of the main reasons people go to see movies, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe for your hearing. According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, some theater’s sound levels put audience members at risk for future hearing problems.

Depending on the movie, in many cases, people leave the theater with their ears ringing, a similar sensation that might occur after attending a rock concert. Of course, seeing movies sparingly won’t likely cause any damage, although it could be dangerous for avid moviegoers.

Don’t Get Tricked Into Purchasing A Combo Meal

Lit-up concessions stand
Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Although a lot of people fall for it, rarely does purchasing a combo food and drink deal save you any money, especially if there’s an offer to upgrade. Typically, this is a ploy to get customers to spend more money without even realizing it.

When in doubt, see how much each item is separate and add them all up rather than just going straight for the combo. A lot of the times, what makes a combo more expensive is that they provide you with a box so you can carry everything at once. Is it really worth it?

Piracy Has Serious Consequences

Anti-piracy warning
David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

Although typical movie theater employees describe themselves being pretty relaxed such as letting people sneak food in, grab a double feature, or even lie about their age, some things don’t go unpunished. One of the biggest of these is piracy, and if you think you can get away with it, you’re sadly mistaken.

If you’re caught in the theater filming on your phone or another device, the theater’s employees will not hesitate to call the police. It’s a federal crime that can get you into some dangerously hot water.

There’s Some Trash In Theaters You Wouldn’t Expect To Find

Janitor on the stairs
Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Donal Husni/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Unfortunately, especially in children’s films, some parents aren’t willing to get up and go to the bathroom to change their baby and will do so right there in the theater.

On top of that, they won’t even dispose of the diapers properly, sometimes throwing them away in the trash of the theater or even leaving it on the ground! Sweeping up spilled popcorn is part of an employee’s job description, but handling used diapers certainly is not.

Theaters Trick You With Your Nose

Man ordering popcorn
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

While a lot of people associate popcorn with going to the movies, most moviegoers find themselves purchasing popcorn once they’re overcome by the irresistible smell of it. However, this isn’t by chance, with theaters going out of their way to make sure the smell of popcorn is thick in the air all over.

They do this by mixing the popcorn with coconut and canola oil for extra potency, as well as other chemicals that aren’t as easily named. Some employees have even admitted that the machines are fixed with special vents to spread the smell as far as possible.

By The End Of The Night, The Theaters Are Filthy

Woman mopping the floors
TENGKU BAHAR/AFP via Getty Images
TENGKU BAHAR/AFP via Getty Images

Even though theaters are typically cleaned between screenings, it’s definitely not the type of deep clean that most people would hope. Mostly, the job consists of sweeping the floors and throwing away any clear trash, but it’s almost guaranteed that some spots will be missed.

This is because the workers are busy hustling from theater to theater to make sure each one gets at least some kind of treatment. It isn’t until the theater actually closes that the rooms are actually sanitized.

Complaining To Employees Is Futile

Man putting up theater sign
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images
RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Unless you’re speaking with a manager or some other higher-up, complaining to an average theater employee won’t get you very far. They’re very aware of how expensive everything is and that things don’t always go how customers want them to.

While they can talk to their manager or see what they can do themselves to help, they don’t make the rules and are usually just there for a paycheck. It only makes their job harder if they have to deal with irrational customers.

More And More Ads And Commercials

Interior of an AMC theater
Erik Freeland/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images
Erik Freeland/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images

You may have noticed in recent years that the number of ads and commercials before films has skyrocketed. This is because theaters are doing whatever they can to make money outside of selling tickets, which is the result of fewer people going to the movies due to streaming services and rising prices.

Today, it’s not uncommon to be 30 minutes late to a film and still manage to get there before the actual movie starts.

Don’t Look Under Your Chair

Gun on the bottom of chair
Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images
Andreas Arnold/picture alliance via Getty Images

Since the introduction of gum into society, people have been irresponsible when it comes to throwing it away. One of the most common ways people wrongly dispose of their gum is to stick it underneath a surface, and this is no different in movie theaters.

People have no problem sticking it under their chair and leaving it for the employees to clean up. However, there’s little time to do so between films, so the job is usually left for the night crew who also shy away from the job.

Alcohol Is A New Way of Taking Your Money

Movie employee with drinks
Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Initially, only privately owned theaters began selling both full meals and alcohol. This was to separate them from chain theaters, therefore making them unique and more appealing. However, it didn’t take long for larger theaters to follow in suit, and now many make sure to at least serve alcohol.

While enjoying an alcoholic beverage in a movie theater sounds like a dream, buying just one drink could double the cost of your trip to the movies. Not only are the tickets to theaters that offer this more expensive, regardless if you get anything or not, but the food and drinks are also astronomically overpriced. Your best bet is to get dinner and a drink beforehand.

Your Requests Will Most Likely Go Unheard

Outside of an AMC theater in New York
Noam Galai/Getty Images
Noam Galai/Getty Images

If there’s a film that’s soon to be released or is already in theaters, requesting for your theater to feature it probably won’t work. These days, the majority of theaters that people attend are part of giant corporations, in which all the decisions that are made come from the top.

Unless the theater is privately owned, which is rare, managers have no say in what movies are played. Your best bet is to try and contact the corporate headquarters, and it’s still a long shot that your voice will be heard.

Previews Don’t Always Go As Planned

Characters coming out before the movie is shown
Roger Kisby/Getty Images
Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Although most theaters are using the most modern film technology, in which very little human involvement is needed to play a movie, mistakes still happen. Although they’re usually not the end of the world, a more common mistake is when trailers for adult films are mixed into those for a children’s movie.

A memorable occurrence of this was in 2016 when the trailer for the raunchy comedy Sausage Party was included during the previews for families who went to see Finding Dory. Whoops!

Wearing 3D Glasses Poses A Risk Of People Getting Sick

Audience watching a 3D movie
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

If you’ve ever gone to see a 3D movie, you’ll know that it isn’t the most pleasant movie-going experience. If you’re already wearing glasses, you’re out of luck, and if not, watching something in 3D for hours can be exhausting. After the release of popular films such as Avatar, the fad began to die down.

One of the main reasons for this was that people were becoming physically ill. Audiences who are sensitive to movement can become extremely nauseous, resulting in them leaving the film or never buying a ticket in the first place.

People Might Be Getting Frisky

Audience waiting to watch a film
Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Romy Arroyo Fernandez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It’s not unheard of for teenagers to experience a harmless first kiss in the movies or the occasional makeout in the back seats, but theater employees have admitted that’s not all that goes on.

Apparently, people like to take advantage of the dark atmosphere, especially if it isn’t a crowded theater. Although this doesn’t mean something’s going on in every movie you go to see, many employees claim to have at least one story about something they’ve either seen or heard.

Fights Are Becoming More Common

Police car outside of movie theater
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve never experienced a conflict between two moviegoers that escalated into a physical altercation. Sure, the movies can be stressful at times, with people being disrespectful and uncaring about other viewers.

Still, according to employees, fights breaking out have become more commonplace than in the past. A possible reason is since going to the movies has become so expensive, people are a lot more on edge when their experience is being ruined.

Few People Will Stop You From Seeing A Second Movie

People buying tickets at the box office
Erik Freeland/Corbis via Getty Images
Erik Freeland/Corbis via Getty Images

In reality, few movie theater employees actually care if you are trying to get the most bang for your buck. Numerous theater employees have admitted that they don’t mind if moviegoers hop into another theater to catch a second film even though they only bought one ticket.

As long as you’re sly about it, few people will notice or actually go out of their way to hunt you down or stop you. However, if the second movie you choose is popular and possibly sold out, this could create some problems.