I don’t know where people are getting these reports, and I don’t know why they feel the need to tell me this, but the popular belief is that during a recession, the entertainment industry booms.
Historically, it’s factual. During The Great Depression, the United States saw the birth of comic books and then from there animated cartoons, and it’s just been evolving ever since. Why? Because the only thing to get a culture to forget about their economic downers is entertainment, especially if it is cheap.
But today? That’s bullshit.
Here I am sitting on my ass for the third straight day in a row. For the last four to five weeks, I’ve had my shifts cut dramatically. I mean, hell, this past weekend, I worked a total of six hours. Six hours for three days!! Normally, I would be pulling somewhere between fifteen to eighteen for an opening weekend or even a second weekend run of a major film like Up or last year's Harry Potter (the latter of the two normally results in overtime). But for the last several weeks that hasn’t been the case. I’m actually afraid of opening my pay check this coming weekend let alone see the hours sheet that I have to sign off on.
And that’s from an employee’s side! From a guest’s side, it’s far worse.
Here you guys are coming to see a movie. What happens? You see nobody working at the box office. And you’re completely thrown off guard as a result. Where do you go to get tickets? Well, there’s a sign that says go to the Customer Service Desk. Oh, okay. Well, when you get there, you notice that there’s only one person running the Concession stand with a line about four parties deep. The lone popcorn hawker is being assisted as best as he can by a manager. You turn to the Customer Service Desk, and there’s nobody there. How the hell are you going to get your tickets? Well, you wait, and wait, and then finally the manager who was helping in concessions gets you your ticket. But then the manager tells you that you’re late to the movie you want to go to. You complain about how you wouldn’t have been if there was another manager working behind the desk. The manager then explains that the other manager on duty for the day has usher duty, which means they are busy cleaning the theatres and bathrooms.
If you think this is an extreme scenario, you’re dead wrong. This has happened nearly five times to me alone during the days where I was lucky enough to work a full shift. It’s horrible to find out that your movie theatre experience is ruined simply because of understaffing. Our only excuse is that “it’s the economy.”
Well, that’s bullshit.
Here’s the real story.
Corporate theatre chains know that during a recession they will make bank, so they are trying to get far enough into the black so that when the economy stabilizes, they will come out ahead from all the rest. How are they doing that? You guess right! By cutting labor hours and raising prices! Ticket prices are set to go up again some time in the next few weeks if not sooner in some areas. Combine that with a small labor pool and refusing to repair equipment until it is non-functional (as is the case with most of the equipment in my theatre) means big money for them and no money for me!
I would look for another job, but nobody’s hiring in my area of the city. And I can’t blame them. The only thing that will work in my favor is that I’m a hard worker compared to all the high school kids my theatre decided to keep because their hourly pay is less than mine. Which means I get all the opening weekends in the summer because I know what the hell I’m doing while the high school kids now have to work during the slow weekdays when they don’t need me.
And as plush as that sounds? I’m bored as hell, and I’m expecting a check that is nowhere near how much labor I put into it. All because corporate movie theatres want to make bank. Pisses me off.
So do me a favor this weekend when you go see your movie. Take note of how many people are working there. If it looks like they are understaffed, chop down a tree and turn it into paper and physically write to the corporate headquarters of that theatre chain expressing and explaining why your movie theatre experience sucked donkey balls. While you’re at it, call them out on them being a bunch of greedy bastards for taking advantage of a recession by offering “cheap” (and I use that word very loosely given how much we charge you just for popcorn) entertainment in order to help you forget about the economy for two hours.