Thursday, February 15, 2007

All Things Are Not Fair & Equal

We have a lot of movie theaters around here. Four of them are less than 5 years old and two of them are less than two years old. Before we had all of these new theaters there was only one main theater in town that had a great selection. It boasted 20 screens and use the moniker "The most screens in west Michigan".
Since one of the newer theaters has opened I have gone to that one as it is the closest to where I live and only 10 minutes from where I work so for the past year or so I haven't been to the "big theater".
Last week Funny Girl and I went to see Babel. We had planned on going to see it when it first came out but never got around to it. Now that it has been nominated for an Academy Award it was playing at the "big theater" along with the other nominations.
When we walked into the theater I noticed some differences from the last time that I was there. I don't know if it was intentional or if it was in reaction to their core audience but there were more minority geared films playing and in return there was a large majority of minorities at the theater. That was fine, it doesn't make any difference to me. I assumed that it might have been a change in marketing to stem the loss of customers from the other theaters opening. Maybe they were catering to a particular niche.
I went back last night because I wanted to watch the new movie Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls. They had it playing on two screens vs. the one screen at my normal theater and I was really surprised that it was playing in Theater One (the biggest screen in the theater). I guess I assumed that it would be in a smaller theater since there really wasn't a lot of advertising for the film and that there wouldn't be en0ugh people to justify the big screen.
The movie was great and even though I sat there by myself on Valentine's Day I enjoyed munching on popcorn and sipping on Diet Pepsi. I didn't feel awkward at all.
Now to the part that bothered me.
The theater was dirty. Not worried about food poisoning dirty but definitely looking ragged and not very clean. The carperts were stained and looking worn out. The theater was picked up between showings of the movies but wasn't really cleaned. There was popcorn all over the floor near the concession stand. The tile floors looked like dirt had been ground into them. Basically things that indicate a lack of emphasis on keeping the theater really clean and inviting.
On the way home I was thinking and getting a bit upset.
When did catering to minorities become synonymous with slacking in keeping a place clean and providing substandard service? It doesn't make any sense to me. They are charging $7.75 for a ticket and I paid $7.50 for a drink and popcorn so it isn't any cheaper to go there. Why wouldn't they want to make their theater as inviting as possible?
When this theater was the only game in town it was bright, clean, well maintained and inviting. Now it looks depressing and like it is fading into obscurity. There used to be an emphasis on customer service and now it seems that no one cares whether you are there or not.
My normal theater is very clean, well maintained and inviting.The thing that mad me the most upset? The "big theater" is owned by the same company that owns the movie theater that I reguarly go to.
This really, really bothers me.


Erica said...

Yes, I understand, it would really bother me too, especially as it's the same company!
The theater should be clean no matter what.
And about Valentine's Day I like you for going to the cinema on your own! I have been to restaurants on my own but never so far to a cinema.
I might just do that, I remember an episode of Sex & the City about this actually.

How was Babel anyway?

l.b. said...

As you say, it is especially odd that two in a chain would have such different standards. And it becomes very weird and icky when it seems like it may have to do with how much they are willing to do for any one client base. Perhaps that theater has changed on-site managers and it is simply a competancy problem.
Oh, and I go the movies by myself probably 50% of the time. It doesn't bother me in the least.

Rachel said...

Erica ~ Exactly. That is what bugged me so much. Same company ~ same standard of quality. It just wasn't happening here.
I go to the movies alone sometimes. I don;t mind it.

l.b.~ It was just an all around strange situation.
I don't mind going to the movies alone. I don't even notice if someone gives me looks.

reformattingmybrain said...

That would bother me too. Nothing like sitting somewhere that's not "kept". I couldn't go alone...

laughingattheslut said...

I used to work at several movie theaters, and I am greatly annoyed when things are not done they way that I think they should be done. And I don't have unreasonable expectations, because I used to be one of those people who did things properly.

But some of it is just that the customers are slobs. There's not much to be done about that. The theater's aren't actually cleaned so much as they are tidied up between shows. If you want someone to clean up after you, bring your mother. People are supposed to have enough sense to pick up the almost empty popcorn bucket and the almost empty soda and put it in the trash themselves. But some people don't do that. So the kids have to waste time doing that instead of just going around with the broom picking up a little spilt popcorn. And if someone spills half a gallon of soda, it would be nice if that got reported before someone slipped and broke something, but that doesn't usually happen either. So the floor is often sticky.

Another thing is how many customers are in a theater, and how many kids are hired to do the job, and how many minutes are scheduled in between shows for them to do their jobs. Once we went to see a movie that was part of a popular series, so everyone knew it would be soldout shows for a while. But by the time all the people walked out of the theater, it was time to let people in for the next show. The kids were waiting with the brooms and trash cans, but they couldn't get much done in that short of a time. And no one picked up after themselves. Everyone left trash under the seats. After a few shows, some of the seats wouldn't go all the way down, cause there was too much trash wedged under them.

One of the theaters I worked at had mostly black customers. There were always a bunch of black guys yelling stuff at the screen. And there were usually four or five white guys sitting in the middle of the theater, trying to out-yell all of the black guys.

It used to be someone's job to walk the theater and get people to stop making noise. People used to be asked to leave the theater. Once in a while, someone was taken out of the theater by the police. I don't think anyone walks the theater now. People talk and cell phones ring and all kinds of stuff, and no one does anything about it, so they keep doing it the next time they're in a theater.

Reel Fanatic said...

Unfortunately, this doesn't surprise me in the least ... Another much more troubling difference with the handling of movies with black stars is when they create a mythical threat of violence ... The first I remember was with Boyz in Da Hood, but it came up here last summer with ATL, which was downright tame (and rather lame, but that's another issue) .. I'm glad to hear Perry's new one didn't disappoint .. I'm going to see it Saturday or Sunday

Rachel said...

reformat ~ it wasn't horrible. It was just not even close to as nice as the other one. You should go to the movies alone one day. It is strangely liberating.

Laughingattheslut ~ I have never worked at a movie theater so I don't know the ins and outs of the business. I guess what I was saying is that you can be in an older building and still maintain high standards of cleanliness. This was not being done.
When I went into the movie there was popcorn all over the floor near the concession stand and drink stations. When I came out there was even more popcorn. It was obvious that long before my movie and during my movie that nothing was done to tidy up the area. It looked the grounds at an outside carnival.

Reel fanatic ~ I <3 Diary Of A Mad Black Woman. I don't think that this one was quite as good but it is definitely worth watching. Let me know what you think of it.

dmarks said...

I am familiar with the Studio 28 and Loeb's. Are any of the theatres you mention these? Or would you rather not ID them?

Churlita said...

You might call the company that handles both theaters. It could be that the manager of the dirty theater just isn't doing his job as far as making sure things get cleaned.

Basic Theology said...

hey. i apologize beforehand if i come off as a douchebag or something. i'm not, i just disagree. :).

anyways, i highly doubt the current flaws and failings of this theatre are an act of blunt racism against minorities. to me, they sound like the problems that a theatre which is going out of business would be sporting. so, i have compiled a list of reasons why this theatre is going to shit that aren't race/religion related!

1: it lost 6/7 of it's business.
2: it has to pay rent/hydro/gas on a giant building/parking lot.
3: it has to try and staff/stock this giant building with employees/products.
4: it has reverted away from the bigger films, and started going with the cheaper, harder to find (but costing them less money to air) films.
5: it is putting small release movies on it's big screen. that's just bad for business... meaning either the owner of the theatre is an idiot, or, they're getting desperate.
6: honest, hardworking people like you are going to the theatre and having negative experiences, and then going and telling their friends about it. making their friends hesitant to go to that theatre anymore. especially considering they've got 6 other choices.
7: they are charging high prices on their tickets and their goods. something that you could probably associate with a struggling attempt to survive on the market.

so, work with me here to imagine for a second if your job was going shitty. you disagreed with most choices your boss was making. customers weren't coming very frequently, and the customers that were coming were constantly throwing shit on the floor. the product you're selling you don't entirely believe in, because it's not mainstream enough, and you have to deal with people complaining about how shitty your company is night after night. you barely make minimum wage, and the boss is always breathing down your neck because his company is being run into the ground. there are several other companies around you which do a better job than you do, and you are constantly reminded of it. and no matter what your company tries to do to get itself out of the hole, they all seem to fail. you're basically on a sinking ship, and you're just holding on for dear life.

i ask you, if that was your job, how much focus would you be putting on your customer service? and how much of it would you be putting on finishing your shift as fast as possible so you could get the fuck out of there. i know that i would probably personally say fuck the customers, i'm going to do as little as possible, because i don't care.

just something to think about.

oh, and i'm not entirely sure how things work in michigan, but, most theatres are privately owned, and just under the umbrella of a company. just like wal-mart. the company owns the location, and lends their name to it, but, one theatre is completely owned and operated under different management.


David in DC said...

I think B.T. may have a point.

If you write a response that long you're bound to get something right.

Law of averages :)

On going to movies alone: you go girl. I do it fairly often. RFB doesn't like movies she can't pause to go to the restroom for and a lot of movies I want to see are not appropriate for Monkeyboy in DC.

However, if you're a 44-year-old male and you're at a kiddie movie alone, be prepared to be taken for a pervert/pedophile.

laughingattheslut said...

We went to see some disney thing on opening weekend. And the theater had a lot of people in it. And there was this really happy looking seven year old guarding some seats. And we asked him which seats were saved, and could we have these two here, and he points out which ones they need, and we can have the other two. So we sit down.

And the happy seven year old is kind of bobbing his head up and down. And he looks at us, and he looks somewhere else. And then he looks back at us, and then he looks away. And his forehead starts to wrinkle. And he looks back at us. And now he's real serious.

"Where are your kids?"

Like we left them in the car or something.

Freckle Face Girl said...

I see that all the time too, especially with fast food restaurants. In Miami, the minority McDees can be 3 blocks from the non-minority one, but those 3 blocks mean a world of difference. I'm guessing it is a mixture of lazy management and customers not demanding more. Sooooo sad.

Rachel said...

dmarks ~ It was one of those theater chains..

basic theology ~ I don't disagree with most of what you said. I guess the part that really upset me is that they are owned by the same company. If they have shoddy management I find it interesting that it is only the one that seems to be monority focused. The other theaters that they own are all very well maintained.

DavidInD.C. ~ Good thing I am not a guy. I wouldn't want to be confused for a pedophile.

laughingattheslut ~ I like animated movies too. I have gone to see some without D when he is at his dads. That kid was pretty funny though.

Freckle ~ I have seen the same thing at McDonalds but most of those are franchises so they are independently owned. Same thing with convenience stores.

dmarks said...

laughing - You should have looked under the seats: "Oh? The kids. I thought we brought them in. Maybe not." Turn to your significant other. "You didn't leave them in the trunk again, did you hon?"