Rejoice: Yet Another Problem to Face at The Cinema

The gentleman on the right will show you to your seats. The gentleman on the left will either be on screen or in the lobby validating your parking tickets.

For argument's sake, lets say that the following applies to all cinemas, although, I suspect it is something which mainly afflicts more local cinemas, outside of the four or five major cities, such as those which I find myself in most of the time.

Here's a story.

I go to a cinema on a 'off-peak' night or during a weekday. The cinema is empty except me and maybe one or two other people. I have a ticket which may or may not have a seat number and row on. Regardless of whether it does or it doesn't, I sit where I want to because, you know, there isn't anyone there. I watch the film and I go home.

Sound familiar? Here's another story, lets see if this also sounds familiar.

I go to the cinema on a 'peak' night to see a popular film. I know that this is a peak night, so I sit in the seat on my ticket. A man - lets call him Bob - and his family don't know it's a peak night and they're early. The cinema is pretty empty. They do what everyone does in an empty cinema and sit wherever they want to. Bob gets comfy, takes off his jacket, puts his fizzy drink in the arm rest.

Bob is in someone - lets called her.. erm... Bobette - else's seat. Bobette comes in with her family. The cinema is still quite empty. Bobette sees Bob and family are in her seat but, hell, the cinema's empty, she sits somewhere else. She puts her tickets into some hitherto unexplored sub-region of her handbag.

Person three - and I've ran out of direct derivations of Bob so this one is called Robert - comes in late. The cinema is now full. Bobette is in Robert's seat. Robert - shouting loudly because the adverts are now playing - gets Bobette to move, which means her family have to move too. Bobette fumbles in the dark. She picks up drinks, popcorn, coats, handbags and small children and wanders in to the row where she either a) peers blindly at her ticket to find where she should be or b) turns on her mobile phone and starts shining it in all directions like a even more annoying version of a lightsaber. Bobette finds Bob. Bob is ejected from Bobette's seat. Repeat previous process until, roughly, fifteen minutes into the feature, by which point, depending on your film of choice, Paris Hilton has already fallen in love or Ridley Scott has already discovered a new species.

Now, I have sympathy with Robert, Bob and Bobette here because the cinema knew this was going to happen. They've conditioned people to think that it is OK to sit in unreserved seating by their actions on off peak nights and the lack of employees in the auditorium.

And you know what, they employe people to deal with this sort of thing. They're behind the concession stand, selling more stuff. They've even got a name, which hints and what they should be doing. And no, they are not called 'ushers' in dedication and recognition of the questionably talented former star of The Faculty.

My local cinema used to have an usher, with a torch, on peak nights, to show people to their seats. Then it became an Odeon.

So, cinemas, particularly large chains; your re-direction and underemployment of your second most key employee is now starting to do as much damage to my cinema-going experience as the same process did when you applied it to your first most key employee - your projectionist. Ushers should not be paid to facilitate the movement of popcorn into over-priced vestibules. They should be paid to facilitate the movement of Bob into an over-priced vestibule, which clearly would solve everything.


  1. Now this may well be alien to me because I go to the cinema in London, but:
    - on an off peak night there are two scenarios. A) cinema doesn't allocate seats. Do as you will, the world is your oyster. B) cinema does allocate seats but, get this, cinema asks you to choose where you want to sit.
    - on a peak night, same two scenarios. In a) tough shit. Snooze you lose. If a big group comes in late then they can't sit together. In b) if people still sit elsewhere despite choosing their allocated seats then they should never be allowed in the cinema again! This has never happened in my experience.

    1. Ah, the ideal world of London Town! The key is, again, staff bothering to give people the right information. If, on a peak night, people were told that they had been allocated a seat and had to sit in it - rather than just handed five tickets 'towards the back - then I'm sure there wouldn't be a problem but nope, the 'usher' is instead too busy asking me if I'd like a large soft drink to go with that, or to invest in the cinema's latest Ponzi scheme, or whatever the hell they're trying to sell me.