What do theater employees do?!

Kavitha ReddyPalace

So you think you might want to work at the theater, but don’t know what all it involves? You’re not alone. We understand that most of you have never been around the operations side of a movie theater. Your experience may be limited to walking into our lobby, purchasing you tickets/popcorn, handing your ticket to the usher, and going straight to your movie. You leave through the exit door and never see what all goes into making your experience 5 star.

Our hours may vary greatly from day to day, but the basic operations stay the same. Every person is expected to do everything. It might work out that you almost always work with the same people and everyone has their tasks they prefer, and that’s ok, but you also need to know how to do it all in case things change.

Opening: Our staff arrives 15 minutes before we open the doors to the public. That gives us 15 minutes to finish all of our opening checklist tasks. These include turning on all of the equipment (popper, coolers, cash registers, menus, lights), starting popcorn (We make popcorn every day), checking auditoriums/bathrooms, counting money, checking showtimes for errors, getting out trash cans, filling coke machine ice bins, putting coke machines together, and checking messages.

First show: We open the doors to the public 30 minutes before our first showtime. Sometimes, there’s a line before we unlock the doors. Other days, it’s 5 minutes after the movie starts before anyone comes in. It’s important to be flexible. Usually, we have one person acting as usher. The usher will tear tickets, monitor the coke machines/lobby/bathrooms, close doors on theaters and make sure movies start and are playing correctly. The rest of the staff is behind the counter. They sell tickets and concessions using our computer based point of sale software. Many of us had never worked in this time of venue before so handling cash and using a register was new to us. Everyone has caught on quickly. It’s a relatively simple system as long as you can read and follow basic directions. If we can, we have someone dedicated to filling concession orders. This means you are preparing soft pretzels using the microwave, filling/buttering popcorn, changing bag in a box (BIB) butter/oil/coke as they are used up, redeeming online tickets with the computer, and assisting the cashiers. This can be one of the hardest jobs at the theater especially if you are filling orders for 3-4 cashiers. You must be able to listen and react quickly and be efficient and thorough. The good news is, the busy rush usually only lasts 30-45 minutes at a time. Then…


After everyone is seated, we have to clean up the battle zone. This means sweeping up popcorn, wiping down counters, throwing away the trash customers have left on the furniture and counters, restocking the candy/cups in the cashier areas, checking theaters for temperature/movie quality/customer issues, counting registers if necessary, returning phone calls, building the kid tray boxes, and refilling the coke machines ice bins, and checking bathrooms.


Depending on how busy it was, this could take 10-30 minutes. Unless it’s a day with only one showtime, this leaves us around an hour before the next set of shows starts. We have various activities to complete during these slow times. We often have to prepare for an event, organize posters, or work on the weekly activities. Weekly activities include inventory, proofreading showtimes for websites and ads. Basic knowledge of computer functions is required for this. We also have to change the auditorium signs and continue our theater checks.


Then, when movies end, it gets a little hectic. We have to manage our time between cleaning efficiently and also managing the new crowd coming in. If the theater isn’t cleaned, the customers cannot go in, and that means they will be filling the lobby, so we often focus on cleaning before we focus on selling tickets. This can make for a really busy 10-20 minutes. We always need someone to watch the usher stand, but if it’s been really busy (or a children’s movie), the mess can take a while to clean. A good employee is able to work quickly and know where they are most needed.


Closing: The above process continues until the last showtime. 30 minutes after the last show starts, we begin working on our closing checklist. We have to clean the popper (probably the most time consuming of tasks, unless the auditoriums were left really messy), change showtime recording, take the coke machines apart, mop the lobby, clean the bathrooms, clean auditoriums, count money, restock everything, change signs, turn off everything, and make sure we are prepared for whatever events are being held the next day.


The ugly: The job is incredibly fun for the most part. We get to dress up and partner with great community causes/businesses. We get popcorn and drinks while on the clock. We get to screen movies early. We have an employee reward system that lets us buy things with points we earn for doing our jobs. We have an enhancement program that lets us earn raises. We try to do events together as a staff when we can. However, this is still a job and it’s not always glamorous.


We also have to handle unhappy customers. Sometimes it’s because we’ve done something. Sometimes, our customers have had bad days and take it out on us. Either way, we have to be prepared to get yelled at by a customer and be able to stay calm and try to help. We have to clean up messes…sometimes really bad ones.. We have to listen to people complain about prices (and it’s frustrating when you know that those prices are only in place so the staff can be paid). It can be tiring. Some days are nonstop crowds. It’s a good problem to have, but it does make for a tiring day. The hours aren’t always ideal. We are not open “normal” business hours and this can be tough for some people. We aren’t open enough to offer full time jobs. It’s not a difficult job, but it can be hard. It requires a lot of initiative. It’s often up to you to find the things that need to be done and do them. This can be difficult for someone who is particularly reserved and timid . We also have a weekly email that contains a lot of important information and a good candidate reads carefully and in a timely manner.

We are open weekends, nights, and holidays. The holidays are actually some of the most fun times at the theater.


Still interested in working with us? Visit the Jobs section of our website and get us an application.