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Over the past few years, my devious friend and I have devised numerous, numerous ways to cheat the movie theaters of the eastern Twin Cities. These are the giant, new, stadium seating places, and YMMV in smaller locales with different logistics. Let us delve in:

Tickets. Of course, tickets are your mark of entry into the theater. Now for no conceivable reason, the 2 largest and best theaters near my house both use tickets perforated down the middle. They are physically symmetrical, with nearly identical printing on each side. The person who takes tickets rips off one half and leaves you with the "ticket stub," so you can leave the guarded area of the theater and get snacks, come back and show them the stub again.

Or you can buy one ticket, rip it in half, and each of your friends can use a half to get past the checkpoint. However, on the back of the tickets, you may see a black square on one half. Depending on the theatre, if you were really into it, you could use either white-out or a black marker to spoof halves. However (see usher mentality below) it really doesn't matter too much.

On opening night of a super-popular movie, sometimes ushers may check tickets at the entrance to the auditorium. You can either A) quickly flash them the stub for the wrong movie or different time (this works) or wait a few minutes into the movie until they go away. Seating will be a problem so you may as well dip into a later show sometimes.

Free movie passes.Everyone knows I am a Hollywood flick junkie. Hence, as a birthday present my fam got me a packet of free passes. However, they come with a disgusting caveat that you can't go opening week. I have a drivers' license and a part-time job, of course I can see new movies right away! Bastards! So what I do is use the pass on an eligible movie, then theater hop to the movie I want to see. Right on.

Theater hopping. It is exceedingly handy to clip out that movie theater's full evening schedule and have a watch so you don't have to camp in an empty theater for half an hour. Whisper to your friends the game plan just before the credits roll. Everyone leaves, and most of you go to the bathroom for a sec. Hence to any usher your proper role has been reset from "Leaving movie to exit" to "Anything" when you leave the bathroom. You and your friends can walk into the second (or third) flick of your choice. You paid $7 damn dollars (or not :), you deserve another movie!

Remember that they load up the pre-movie time with bullshit advertising now at mainstream theaters, so you have about 15 minutes between the posted "movie showtime" and the actual movie showtime. This is a good grace period so you don't get rushed and stressed out about your hopping.

For you younger kids, the whole R rating thing comes into play (in the U.S.) just try and make sure the hallway is clear, I guess. It never failed for me. Ever since I've had friends with driver's licenses I've never had a problem seeing whatever I wanted to.

Usher mentality. Let's face it, working at the theater is basically a crap job. These people are usually in a boredom trance and the last thing they want to deal with is dumbass kids sneaking around. If you're subtle and don't giggle about whatever you're doing, they won't feel obligated to care, even if they know what's going on. All they care about is plausible deniability to their manager. It helps if you are tall or tough-looking, but not so tough as to appear out-of-place in a suburban theater.

Then again there are asshole managers, about 25-30 years old, who really hate their lives. Watch out for these people. If you are always around you will probably start to recognize them by their angry red auras.

The cameras and sneaking people around. By far the cheapest and most classic method of conning the theater is getting people in the side doors, of which there are many because of the sudden large crowds and fire codes. You won't have much trouble getting friends in if you've got the cojones and there are doors NOT along the primary hallway. As long as you keep your trips in straight, short lines between a theater, the bathroom and the door, you won't seem really out of place. NEVER go straight from theater to theater unless it is really quiet.

Most big theaters these days are laid out in an H topology. The crossbar of the H is where most of the ushers are going to be, and some auditorium entrances, but there are at least a few along the vertical parts of the H. the ends of the H always have doors, usually onto quiet, hidden parts of the parking lot. You just get a ticket, waltz to the door and open it for your buds. Then you all duck into the nearest auditorium for a sec and the ticket-buyer tells the sneakers-in where the target auditorium is.

But what about the security cameras watching the doors, you say? Let's call the cameras "Liebermans" from now on, because all they do is cover the legal asses of the movie theater industry from social conservatives, because our youth were being corrupted by going into R-rated movies unsupervised. So the theaters install some bullshit cameras (which may be fake, for all I know) to make it seem like they are finally checking on theater hopping. But they aren't. The cameras supposedly watch the entire hall, but if you duck into the nearest theater when you sneak your buds in, they can't tell who the hell you are.

If it is semi-crowded but you must still get people in, there is a cool way to do so. Wait until a crowd comes out of a theater. As they all beeline towards the door your friend is at, join the crowd and walk with them, at the very back of the crowd. Everyone will be semi-zombified for a few minutes, and they won't be aware of you. When you reach the bank of doors, open one on the edge for your friend and let them in. If an usher appears unexpectedly, abort, go outside, and come through the lobby again using your stub. You could even plan to do this ahead of time, and have your friend slip in as you walk out, and you circle around again.

The cheapest snacks. Obviously pocket as many candy bars and drinks as you can and walk in with those. Knowing my fiendish buddy, he usually shoplifted his snacks from somewhere else and snuck them in. $3.00 for a big Crunch bar, hell no!

Dodging ridiculously slow, fucked up lines. One time I had to sneak 2 friends in, but I still needed to get my ticket. Some goof high school sophomore had fucked up their computerized register, and the line was backing out the door. No one knew what to do, except I. I wandered sideways out of the line, skipped around 15 people, pretending to go to the other empty register. I took $7 from my wallet, threw it at the hapless ticket kid, and just walked in. People were all pissed behind me but they could screw themselves pretty much.

Infinite soda pop for all! The most wonderful thing is when theaters have auxiliary snack bars out in the wings. These are only attended at busy times on the weekend evenings. The candy bars are locked up and the popcorn thrown away when it's closed, but they leave the soda fountain machine turned on. You can lean over the counter and tank up your container of choice again and again until you throw up. Coca-Cola or Pepsi is always on the end of the fountain, so no prob for me.

The ethics or lack thereof: You may believe what I am telling you is wrong. You may downvote me, but I don't care. Here my moral rationalization, flimsy as it may be, for what I do: I just paid you $7 to watch about 90-110 minutes of film which may or may not be good. However you gouge me for the popcorn and drinks. I know all your expenses are not in the popcorn itself, but the movie licensing and labor, especially. Hence, stealing drinks isn't wrong, it's about a dime of actual value! Additionally you are are a participant in the great pop-culture brainwashing conspiracy and I feel no love for you. If you cared about me you woldn't prepend those Pepsi ads to the movie. I say that I have the right to take what I feel is worth the money I spent here, as long as I'm subtle about it. You get fair market value for what I take, I get to have a good time. Fair?

The author and his evil bud recently saw 1/3 of Osmosis Jones, all of The Others and American Pie 2, for a total of $0 on 2 Jurassic Park 3 movie passes.

Some things to think about as you help raise the price of movie tickets and refreshments at my local theatre by means of your petty theft (by the way... will the next guide be "How to run an insurance scam?)

The last movie ticket I bought cost me $10. You can't tell me they're not raking in the dough.

A movie theatre rents the film from the distributor, and pays a price for that rental. Your movie ticket may cost $10, but most of that money goes right back to the distributor. How much? About 75% on opening weekend. Yeah, that's right. The theatre gets about $2.50 per ticket, before expenses.

The percentage the theatre gets goes up as the weeks go by. If a film manages to stay in theatres for eight weeks, the percentage may likely be reversed -- the movie theatre can keep 75% of box office receipts. Of course, these are receipts on half-filled theatres. The distributor has already made their money.

In addition to this wonderful agreement, distributors are also in a position to demand other concessions. Remember Episode I? Theatres knew Episode I was going to be huge, the kind of movie that would stick around for eight weeks, and still fill a good number of seats. 75/25 was a great deal for them, right?

Yeah, until Lucas set quality-of-presentation requirements. Theatres had to be equipped with the latest Lucas-certified sound systems. The film had to be shown on the largest screens in the theatre for a minimum of four weeks. And each screen had to have its own film... no swapping reels between screens.

The percentage payouts were never made public.

Yeah, so why do my damned Junior Mints cost me $7?

Evershrinking profit margins. You've got fewer blockbuster films, longer movies (which means fewer screenings), and higher overhead (wages, rent, electricity, advertising, etc). Theatres have to make money somehow, and it's not as though they're providing a wide array of services. There's movies and there's food, and while the 15 minutes of ads before the movie help, they have to jack up the price of food to make money.

Well, it's clear that the theatre doesn't care about me!

I thought this was a fairly amusing part of the above rant. Businesses do not care about individuals. It is not the responsibility of a business to care about its customers. But-- wha-- without the customers-- huh? The responsibility of a business is to care about its shareholders and its profits. That often goes hand in hand with customer satisfaction, but money, not people, is the bottom line. The fact that you don't like ads before the movie means nothing to the theatre, unless it affects their profits.

Well, that's fine. I'm going to still keep doing what I'm doing.

That's cool. Personally, I'd rather you to either grow up and start paying for services like everyone else, or stop participating in the "great pop-culture brainwashing conspiracy" and read a book instead. But whatever. I used to sneak into a movie here and there... and then I finished tenth grade. Do what you want... I'm upvoting the writeup because it's informative... just don't piss in my ear and tell me it's raining. Nothing about it is an act of civil disobedience, or even some sort of altruistic defiance of consumerism. It's petty theft, and I'm calling a spade a spade.

The ethical debate here is actually a great example of the difference between the two separate definitions of stealing: illicit benefit vs. deprivation of resources.

On the one hand, if stealing is defined as depriving others of their stuff, you're stealing next to nothing from the movie theater by sneaking in: a fraction of a cent's worth of wear and tear on their seats and carpets, the water you flush down the toilet, and the opportunity to use the seats you're occupying in some other way (essentially worthless in a show that isn't crowded). On the other hand, if stealing means benefiting from someone's stuff without their permission, you're stealing $10 worth of services here.

This is one of the two basic disputes about intellectual property: when you do something someone else did first (e.g., print a copy of a book or use a particular manufacturing process), you are depriving them of nothing, but you're benefiting from work they did without compensating them for it. It is impossible to deprive anyone of intellectual property, but it may still be wrong to appropriate it for yourself if they have a legitimate right to forbid you to do so.

Incidentally, the argument that the majority of the cost of your ticket goes to the distributor is actually a strong argument in favor of screwing theaters (if you're into that). After all, if the movie theater is just passing on the screwing the distributor gives them, sneaking into the movie is mostly just "hurting" the distributor, not the theater. Practically virtuous!

My own reluctance to put this into practice comes from a different direction: I must be honest about buying tickets when I go see Evil Brain-Sucking Hollywood Movies, but only as a disincentive to see them at all.

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