This is my open letter to Regal Cinemas, who have a strong foothold in the NYC movie exhibition market with several multiplexes they operate in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island. Originally published on Renegade Cinema.
To: Regal Entertainment Group
7132 Regal Lane
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918
In light of all too many experiences at several of your Cinemas in New York City and the surrounding metropolitan area: I am offering these words so that you may be informed – and can better manage your movie theaters and thus improve the movie going experience for New Yorkers. As you know NYC is a hotbed of filmmaking activity so it should go without saying that many of your patrons are filmmakers either studying film or associated with those behind many of the films you screen in your multiplexes. I am not sure how it is in regular America or other American cities, but here in the Big Apple, many of us have become disenchanted by the problems that come with going out to the movies.
I have found it increasingly difficult to go to the movies and support my peers when film’s they’ve worked on are released to your theaters, specifically. From disruptive audiences to the admittance of crying babies into R rated films, it’s baffling that this is allowed to go on. Although the staff checks the auditoriums regularly, and have a sheet they sign to prove they’ve done so, not once have I witnessed anyone ever confronting an audience member who was breaking any of the rules concerning disruptive behavior in the theater. Incidents of cell phone use during these presentations are prevalent in the following locations: Union Square, Times Square, New Dorp, Battery Park & Court Street Brooklyn. And why should your staffers confront these perpetrators when you’re not providing them training and a wage commensurate to deal with escalation? At some point I confronted the manager of the New Dorp branch, a blond woman who looked to be in her thirties and conveyed a “I’ve had it with life” sort of demeanor. She was passive, offering the “number to corporate”, as if it didn’t concern her that her staff is allowing babies into inappropriate movies. Not that I’m a stickler for ratings, but some of these cats were five years or younger. She told me it is against the law to deny anyone access to the movies, and that when it comes to crying and what not, she can’t keep them from going back in, after her staff does eventually get around to bringing them out into the main lobby. She offered me a free pass to a later show, which I declined. I had left this complaint on the back burner because tickets at that theater are a wonderful $6.00, which for NYC is a steal. A free ferry ride and a free transfer to the Staten Island railway – you can be in New Dorp within an hour from lower Manhattan for the cheapest movie tickets in New York City. At these other locations, however, it’s completely unacceptable as tickets are at peak prices – which are hardly reasonable.
Last week, I attempted to attend the new release of TUSK at the Regal in Union Square. I was taken aback by the loss prevention tactics employed by the staff there, which includes bag searches and pat downs of patrons with cargo pants, of which I was able to avoid thanks to an influx of teenagers who had distracted the woman engaged in the searches. When I approached the ticket taker, he refused to grant me admittance (this was 20 mins before the show). He told me I had to wait ten minutes. I informed him that I needed to use the rest room and then wanted to wait in line at the concession stand, which would take the allotted amount of time he wanted me to wait. This did not concern him and his attitude towards me was patronizing and somewhat “bureaucratic”. I immediately headed down to the ticket window to get a refund on my ticket and the ticket seller demanded to know why. I’ve never been required to give an explanation to refund a movie ticket before, not ever. After informing her that I was uncomfortable with the environment and the attitude of the ticket taker, she got an attitude and told me that I had to wait for a manger. I got the impression that she didn’t really care why I wanted a refund, but that she just wanted to get a rise out of me. I waited a good fifteen minutes before I was issued a refund and to add insult, they refused to give me a receipt. I guess I’ll have to monitor my account to check on the status of the credit, which she told me would take a good four to five business days.
With my complaints, dear Regal people, I come bearing solutions. Take ‘em or leave ‘em but your actions depend on whether or not you can keep you footing in the NYC market. As far as phone usage, a simple answer to this problem would be to convert every single auditorium into a Faraday cage, which would prohibit signals from entering and exiting the theater. All movie theaters should be like this. Society has done well with no cell phones in movie theaters since the beginning of film exhibition, and we all did rather well for ourselves didn’t we? As a life long movie goer with many friends who are like me, I take my movie viewing experience seriously. For me, I require a certain amount of time before the show to acclimate myself to the theater environment in order to better immerse myself into the story. This is common for many of us who see movies as much more than disposable entertainment and I urge Regal to take people like us into consideration when establishing a required timeline of when it is okay to arrive for a show. Lastly, the most off-putting and disconcerting part of all of this is the United Nations level security procedures you have implemented in your Manhattan locations. Pat downs and bag check at the movies: is overkill.
Heading out to the movies on a Friday night should not consist of taxing policies and procedures, patronizing employees ‘nor disruptive audiences who lack eti-what? Etiquette! …especially at fifteen dollars a head. It’s ridiculous. It’s offensive. Had been my film, I would have pulled it from your chain altogether. All you’re doing with this lackadaisical micro-managing bureaucratic approach is discouraging dedicated movie goers from attending your shows.
Note: in light of this publication I have stumbled across multiple open letters to Regal Cinemas, some better than others, but all with valid complaints. Here are links:
Brooklyn/NYC Moms: “while I should have left the theater uplifted by a very special movie, I left it annoyed by a system that is designed to suck every last penny out of its customers, virtually assuring that those who can watch movies in some other way will. If profits don’t climb this year the way you want them to, if ticket sales are the same or less than last year, don’t blame the economy, don’t blame DVDs and downloads, and don’t blame the quality of the movies. Blame your own greedy selves.”
Matt Cashion: “You know that movies end late, you know that the mall closes early, and you know that people will need to use the bathroom after drinking your gargantuan soft drinks. Keep your bathrooms open, people.”
Snobbing: “In closing, I ask not only Regal and IMAX, but any theater chain or exhibitor to get your act together. If digital is the way to go, then be prepared for things to go wrong. Work together in the off-chance that your equipment goes belly up. I don’t know if the Regal Exchange or the IMAX theater lost any patrons permanently, but I know that I’m not likely to go back to that specific theater. There are others out there that are more passionate about their craft to let an issue like this get out of hand.”