Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Majestic Concession Line Angry Me!

I maintain a love/hate relationship with Silver Spring's Majestic Theatre. It's great that there is a 20-screen modern movie theater with within walking distance to my house. It has become exponentially better since adding an IMAX screen last year. Despite ticket prices of $17.50 or more, thanks to the Majestic IMAX has become my new standard in movie watching. I've already seen The Avengers and Prometheus during this year's summer movie season, and intend to see The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX when it is released this weekend.

It remains bothersome that there can be a bit too much disruption during movies at the theater, but that seems to be the norm these days. I've had similar issues at the AFI and the Bethesda Row Cinema. To be fair, I haven't noticed it as much lately, but the 500 decibel IMAX sound system tends to drown out all other sounds (permanently).

One thing that continues to annoy me is the the exceptional inefficiency of the theater's concession operations. You'd think after a hundred plus years of existence, the movie theater industry would have concessions down to a science, yet the service at the Majestic is pathetically slow. I now have to budget an extra half hour if I think I may want to get a popcorn for a movie. I recently went to the Majestic for a weekend evening show, generally a theater's busiest time. That being the case, you would think they would staff accordingly, however if I recall correctly only nine of their seventeen (?) registers were manned. If they aren't going to use them during their highest-volume times, why were they even installed in the first place? I've never seen them all in use at once. When I got in line, it was only about four groups deep, so it couldn't take all that long, right? Wrong. Somehow I managed to wait 25 minutes for a popcorn. Adjacent lines didn't appear to be moving appreciably faster.

Considering the margins they are getting on $8 bags of popcorn and $6 sodas, it would financially beneficial to increase their staff. Ringing up just a single sale would likely cover a concession worker's hourly wage and any associated payroll taxes. It's not like there aren't plenty of teenagers out there looking for jobs. No doubt there are innumerable sales that have been lost due to patrons' not having adequate time to wait in these sluggish queues before their movie starts. I had the distinct pleasure of working at the defunct AMC City Place 10 for one summer as a teen, so I can say based on experience that you can move the line a hell of a lot faster than they do at the Majestic. (Two time AMC City Place 10 employee of the week here.) The process is incredibly simple: take order, up sell, serve order. Now all the popcorn is pre-bagged and concession workers don't even have to butter it behind the counter, so it should move even faster. A transaction shouldn't take more than 1-2 minutes at most.Why it seems to take 5+ minutes for each sale at the Majestic is beyond me.

As an aside, here's a few interesting things I learned from working at a movie theater:

1. You are in no way getting butter on your popcorn. We were expressly forbidden from calling the liquid that we applied to popcorn as "butter". It was only to be referred to as "topping".

2. There is something called a "Half and Half", or at least there used to be. This is when you fill up a popcorn bag half way, pump a full allotment of "topping" on the kernels, fill up the rest of the bag and re-apply the topping. There are likely a disproportional number patrons of the AFI City Place 10 in the 1990's who have since perished from congenital heart disease. Now that you have to pump your own topping, I don't see how you'd get yourself a half and half.

3. Orange soda is a lot more popular than I would have imagined.

On the subject of the Majestic, yesterday I received this email regarding a post on from way back in 2007:

Dear Sir or Madam: It’s 2012 and people are still calling my cell phone when they are unhappy at the movies. I haven’t worked for Consolidated Theatres since 2008, please, please, please remove this posting so that my peaceful Friday nights can return! I don’t work for them anymore and this is my personal cell number you have posted. The Majestic is owned now by REGAL.
I felt kind of bad, though it wasn't me that posted her number - it was in a comment that I have since deleted. At the same time, I'm glad people are making their displeasure known when they have a bad experience at the Majestic. Who knows, maybe it has helped.

One last thing... when did the Majestic start screening Bollywood films? I noticed this posted outside last month. DON'T ANGRY ME!


Anonymous said...

hahahah, hilariously awesome post.

Alex said...

Interesting. I've never had a problem with talkers, texters, or smart phone users at the AFI or Landmark Row. As far as concessions go, why buy that stuff? I know I know, this is not the answer to the problem of lousy service, but seriously, stale popcorn covered in fake butter and salt? Candy bars? Tubs of flavored sugar water? If I'm going to down a ton of unhealthy calories, I'm making it count. Gimme a Hell Burger, a plate of smoked ribs, or something to justify the gluttony. Movie concessions are overpriced junk food of the lowest kind.

Anonymous said...

You live a charmed life if this is your top bitch...

Anonymous said...

I went to see Spider-Man yesterday afternoon when I knew the place would be nice and empty. Walked to the theater from home, got my ticket in a flash, then went upstairs for some snacks only because I hadn't eaten anything yet. One register open? Makes sense. There were only 4 people in front of me. Still, the girl working was exceptionally slow. When the guy in front of me was next, she stopped to rearrange some cardboard tray-boxes that had fallen and that took her longer than it should. You have two customers waiting. Take care of them first!

Truth be told, I usually don't find the wait to be terribly long when I go on weekends. Too many people pick the 2 lines closest to the escalators, so I go down a couple and i'm usually on my way to my theater in less than 10 minutes.

Sligo said...

Not my top bitch. It's #42.

JK said...

Why buy food? Just smuggle it in. Load up your wife's purse with bottles of water or soda, chocolate, or a bag of chips from CVS on your way in. Much cheaper, much quicker. You can't get anything hot this way, so no nachos or popcorn, but you'll be much happier.

Anonymous said...

Movie concessions workers are the most worthless lazy useless "workers" in any job anywhere.

Although I'm convinced that the management TELLS them to slow down and work slowly and incompetently.

It's pathetic and everyone who works that job should be beaten and flogged then fired. And it happens at EVERY theater.

Also: typical of this blogs commentators to have someone say this is a charmed life issue. So what? He's not allowed to gripe about the rampant stupidity at somewhere he enjoys going?

Sligo said...

As a former movie concession worker, I can say they aren't all terrible. It's certainly not the most rewarding employment. You are at the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. Even the ushers make more, and what do they actually do?

Rebecca said...

I too enjoy the IMAX theater at the Majestic, although for the last two movies I've seen there I have worn earplugs (seriously) because the sound is so deafeningly loud. I mean, maybe I'm just getting old (though last time I checked, 26 wasn't that old), but the volume in there seems completely ridiculous.

Oh, and you are completely right about the concession lines. My solution: Trader Joe's movie popcorn, smuggled in with my purse. Just as delicious and much healthier (and cheaper) too!

Anonymous said...

Second the poster that complained about the IMAX theater being too loud. Saw Prometheus there and it was definitely uncomfortable. I think my wife was ready to walk out before the movie even started because of it.

I love the big screen and would love to see TDKR on it this weekend, but not worth having my eardrums violated for 2 hours.

Sligo said...

Re: the volume

I swear the previews are much louder than the actual movie. Either that, or my hearing just declines by the time the movie starts.

Anonymous said...

I don't often watch IMAX movies, but when I do, I just keep my ipod earbuds in. Does the trick.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I've found the lines for tickets a bit long. Tip - there is a self ticket dispenser upstairs.

Never had problems with fellow movie goers when watching a flick.

Somehow I'm doubting you waited a full 25 minutes for popcorn with only 4 people ahead of you. Or you must have a serious addiction to popcorn if you'd wait that long. I think I'd wait five minutes top before I'd say it's not worth it.

Sligo said...

I did indeed wait 25 minutes, as did a lot of other people, I'm sure. I was timing it. I had a free popcorn or soda coupon from the Regal Crown club and I was determined to use it before it expired. The fact that you would have bailed after 5 minutes illustrates my point about their losing revenue by not being adequately staffed.

With regard to the tickets, just skip the lines altogether. You can print your ticket at home.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

I used to go to the AMC City Place movies, usually to the first showings on Saturday morning. No crowds really and theaters tend to be cleanest then. There was a group home or school for special needs folks who would bring people to the first shows. Sometimes, it would be a group of people with Down's Syndrome, or similar conditions. I'd have nice chats with them in the (short) line at the concession stand. Other times, they'd bring people with much more challenging conditions and park their wheelchairs in the back of the theater and seem to leave them there. The people in the wheelchairs would holler and otherwise vocalize all through the movie. It seemed independent of what was going on on the screen and they didn't seem to be upset or in distress. Just loudly expressing themselves.

The Majestic is much better on so many fronts, except as this post says, the concession line. It's slow, the lines hard to tell apart at times, but the popcorn does seem to be fresh. I worked one summer in the early 80's at the concession stands at Capital Centre. I could tell you stories that would put you off snack bar food for years. I've never seen anything off-putting at the Majestic except the speed at which they serve guests.

Easley Does It said...

I hate to give away my Majestic concession secret, but I have had great luck bypassing the main concession stand in the lobby and heading for the other one deeper inside the theater. Far fewer people there. But that one is only open during peak periods.

Anonymous said...

I love popcorn and I swear that all concession workers are paid extra to be slow and stupid

Patrick Thornton said...

While I've never had issues with people inside the theater, like some on this blog have had, the concessions stand is functionally worthless. The line is always long for something simple. They should be able to do a basic order in a minute or less. The food orders they have there are less complicated than McDonalds. So why do they take so long to fufill?

The other issue I have with theaters like the Majestic is that all they serve is over priced crap aimed at 5-year-olds. No beer, no real coffee, no sandwiches or other real food. They have nothing that caters to an adult taste, and then they wonder why they aren't selling that much.

Theaters make a lot of money off of concessions. It's how they become profitable. Half of ticket prices go back to the studios. This is why movie theaters try to sell you candy bars for 2-4x retail price. They have to make the money up somehow.

They should be going for lower prices and higher volume. Instead, the Majestic has excruciating lines that cut down on volume. Of course they're going to have to charge a lot for concessions.

AFI would be perfect if they just sold real food like some other art house theaters.

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