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Author Topic: Theater companies STILL screwing their paying patrons
Paul H. Rayton
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 210
From: Los Angeles, CA , USA
Registered: Aug 2003


 - posted 05-21-2015 04:05 PM      Profile for Paul H. Rayton     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I might have thought that the practice of luring people to a movie theater with an advertised showtime of a given movie -- and then not showing it -- would be, by now, illegal, or at least really frowned upon. At least, they would not do it in a major market.

We've tried twice now to see "Ex Machina". First time, Sun. May 10, we went to the Pacific Americana in Glendale (CA). The entire place that day, including the parking garage, was pandemonium (Mother's Day crowds), and it was clear we were not going to be able to make it to the scheduled 3:05PM showtime until maybe 3:00PM, at which time all decent seats would be gone. So we gave up and left. OK, that one was our fault for not arriving earlier, and our fault.

One week later: Let's try again, at the same place. Sunday, May 17, we figured to have another go at it. Heard a lot about it, interested in seeing it. By now the show has been playing citywide for at least a month, and we shouldn't face a massive crowd for seating. We get to the parking lot at about 2:30PM, and arrive at the ticketing area at 2:35, for the advertised 3:05PM showing. We look at the display board, above the cashiers -- and there is no show listed for 3:05PM, only one at 5:35PM. We ask the cashier, "What happened to the 3:05PM screening? Is it sold out or something?" Reply: "No, we're not having that show today. Is there something else you'd like to see?"

Well, WTF, no, there is NOT something else I wanted to see, at least not at that moment.

As an former employee of commercial cinemas, I know PRECISELY what happened to "our" 3:05PM show. They yanked it, so they could sell more tickets to "Mad Max", or "Pitch Perfect", or maybe the "Avengers" show, all of which were in the same complex.

This ticks me off no end. We went to the expense and time commitment to make it to their location to see a **specific** movie, and which they specifically advertised in the papers with notes (in the ad) that declared "Times for Sunday May 17 ONLY" (their emphasis).

We went to the "Customer [No] Service" desk to inquire (though I knew what was happening). The girl on duty there said, "Oh, you should have checked on Fandango before coming in -- the updated times should have been listed there". Well, that's just HORSEPUCKY. I'm still involved with theaters, although now a nonprofit, and I know that all too often we get people coming in with complaints about the times listing on Fandango, too.

This was not an "error" in the listings, this was a deliberate yanking of a show by Pacific, and screw the public who might be coming to see it. And no, they did not offer us any return tickets for some other date or other compensation, either.

Back in the 1990s, I was working a commercial 6-plex here in L.A. When some title opened very strongly on a Friday, if the big, THX-equipped houses sold out during prime times over the weekend, it was a known event that the "backup" print would be hastily assembled and we'd run it in one of the smaller houses (non-THX, and much smaller screen.) This was just playing dirty, but who was I, as an employee, to tell them they couldn't do it? So the patrons unknowingly being sent to screen #2 or #5 for that showtime were being screwed, too -- getting less of a "presentation" than in the big screen, THX house.) And people who presented themselves to purchase tickets for the cancelled show were simply lied to, told something like "the projector broke down" or similar.

It just seems (to me) that now, what with DCPs, and online tracking of showtimes, etc., that big chains like Pacific shouldn't be able to pull off such bait-and-switcheroo tricks with the titles on their screens. How naive I am.

I'm about to also write Pacific to complain directly to them as well, but I wanted to vent here publicly first, since (to be honest) I doubt that Pacific will do anything to "apologize" for their disrespecting their customers that way. So if I can at least alert others to the continuation of these shabby practices, even just a little, I'll feel better. Next time I'll be thinking twice about taking my spendable $$ to Pacific's locations, for sure.

Is anybody else out there being required to perform such little "tricks" for their management these days?

(PS: I tried to upload an image here of the Pacific ad from last Sun., but it's not going through. Maybe later.)

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

Posts: 12767
From: Forsyth, Montana
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-21-2015 05:47 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I assume they had a meeting and said, what group is it better to piss off?

A. The group of 6 people who want to see Ex Machina

or

B. 200 or more people who otherwise wouldn't get tickets to Mad Max (or whatever).

As usual, follow the money.

I'm not saying it's right, I'm just saying that's probably what happened.

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Justin Hamaker
Film God

Posts: 2253
From: Lakeport, CA USA
Registered: Jan 2004


 - posted 05-21-2015 06:31 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Paul, I don't think you are being unreasonable to be upset about this. I know I would be to. However, I do think you are being unreasonable to say (or imply) the theatre is deliberately doing this to piss people off.

Assuming you kept a print out of the times or the listing from the paper, I think you have justification to ask for a free pass from the theatre. But is it really worth getting this bent out of shape about. Especially if you work in the industry and understand why this kind of thing happens.

As for directing people to a lesser presentation, I don't see an issue with this. Unless they are specifically the movie in a specific format - and not differentiating times not in that format, I don't think it's an issue. The patrons going to the overflow auditorium should actually be thankful the theatre added the additional show times so they didn't waste a trip.

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Scott Norwood
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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 05-21-2015 07:01 PM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Did they not offer you a free pass to come back and see the show at a later date?

I have never heard of this sort of thing happening without passes being offered to the patrons who wanted to see the cancelled show.

I do agree that advertising a showtime for a particular title and then not showing that title for reasons that are within the control of the theatre management is unethical, and that even free passes don't really compensate for people who have wasted their time and perhaps hired a babysitter. Still, passes cost (effectively) nothing and are the least that the theatre manager should have done in this situation.

Definitely write to the theatre company (and maybe the film distributor, too) to express your displeasure. If you are lucky, the complaint might make it to someone who can make a difference for the better. If not, they will probably send you some passes to see another movie at their crappy theatre. For the cost of a stamp, it is probably worth it.

For the record, I also happen to think that the airlines' common practice of overbooking (selling more than the available number of seats, on the basis that there will be some no-shows and offering free tickets in the event that too many people try to check in for the flight) is also unethical, but I seem to be alone on that one. Still, I have never heard a good explanation for why it is somehow acceptable to sell (say) 102 tickets for a flight on a 100-seat airplane.

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Justin Hamaker
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From: Lakeport, CA USA
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 - posted 05-21-2015 07:25 PM      Profile for Justin Hamaker   Author's Homepage   Email Justin Hamaker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Scott, with the overbooking thing, I think it comes down to a matter of statistics. I'm sure have employed bean counters that tell them X number of people wind up not showing for their flight. I don't think it's necessarily ethical unless those final ticket holders know they are on standby, but I don't think it's the worst thing in the world.

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Louis Bornwasser
Film God

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From: prospect ky usa
Registered: Mar 2005


 - posted 05-21-2015 07:30 PM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Paul: Ex Machina is great. Do not give up. We found that local cinemas don't do this as much as chains. Some of them even still LOVE films.

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Buck Wilson
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: St. Joseph MO, USA
Registered: Sep 2010


 - posted 05-21-2015 09:02 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We constantly have people coming up angry claiming "You have the wrong showtimes online!!" only to find out that they got their information from msn or askjeeves or buttholesurfin. com or whathaveyou... We always direct them to our actual site and try to explain to them that we truly have no control of the entire internet.

You do not seem to be in that boat. If you actually have a newspaper ad with a time they didn't honor, you can very likely get double passes each with enough complaining. That is redick.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10973
From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 05-21-2015 10:51 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
This is reminiscent of the Valentine's Day bullshit I went through three months ago.

My girlfriend and I went up to Oklahoma City to have dinner, see a movie and do some other things. I had bought advance tickets for us to see Kingsmen: The Secret Service at the Harkins Bricktown 16 theater. I paid a modest surcharge to see the movie on the theater's largest "Cine Capri" screen, equipped with Dolby Atmos.

After dinner we arrived at the theater only to find our movie had been switched to a smaller non-Atmos house. They moved Fifty Shades of Grey into the Cine Capri despite having advertised and advance sold tickets otherwise. Needless to say, I was pissed about it, but I contained my temper so I could have a reasonable, productive conversation with the manager. Apparently the theater chain management made this switcheroo at the last minute.

I let them know we drove up from Lawton to see the movie at that theater. If we didn't care about the difference between 5.1, 7.1 or Atmos we would have watched the movie in Lawton, maybe on Blu-ray months later. 50 Shades of Grey had a plain 5.1 mix. It didn't need to be in the Cine Capri house for any other reason than extra seats.

The theater refunded our money for the tickets we bought and also gave us a pair of re-admit passes for a future visit. That made it better. I've continued to watch movies there (and buy concessions). Last visit: Mad Max: Fury Road in Atmos. Thankfully they didn't have Pitch Perfect in the Cine Capri unannounced, even though it strangely made a lot more money opening weekend than Mad Max.

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Marcel Birgelen
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From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
Registered: Feb 2012


 - posted 05-22-2015 05:38 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Overbooking and overselling, it's common in almost every industry nowadays... Most people hate hotels and airlines for doing it.

I've seen numerous examples where one show got cancelled the last minute to accommodate the overflow from a sellout show. Also, shows with reserved seating getting moved into a "lesser" auditorium, reassigning some random seat but not even giving a compensation for the reservation fee.

I've once attended a show where the feature could not be started, probably because of a defective DCP (great Q.C.). They even refused to refund the tickets, they only handed out a coupon for a free show, that didn't cover 3D or other fancy shows. When I asked where they expect me to finish my popcorn they just shrugged.

It reminds me of this hotel in N.Y. where I arrived late at night after an exhausting flight and several hours worth of explaining at the customs what I was doing with the equipment which I was bringing with me for work (which got all the necessary paperwork). I booked the hotel via phone a week before and explicitly told them I would be checking in late at night, which was no problem. We exchanged credit card information and she e-mailed me a confirmation. The "gentle" lady at the reception told me they didn't expect me anymore, so they gave my room to somebody else and they were now fully booked. Great! I literally had to ask her if she could arrange another room for me at another hotel... Which she, at first, even refused to do. I told her, what do you expect me to do? Sleep with my luggage on a park bench outside? After some convincing, she called ONE partner hotel, who also didn't have a room available... I ended up booking a new hotel on-line, on the spot right there and got me a taxi ride to the other hotel. To add injury to insult, after I got my credit card statements, I realized the hotel actually charged for my apparent no-show... Obviously a call to the credit card company got that sorted out, but sure bet I would never be staying at this hotel EVER again.

Had they admitted their mistake, booked me on a comparable room in another hotel and paid for the taxi ride there, they might have had a return customer.

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David Buckley
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 525
From: Oxford, N. Canterbury, New Zealand
Registered: Aug 2004


 - posted 05-22-2015 06:00 AM      Profile for David Buckley   Author's Homepage   Email David Buckley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Buy your tickets in advance online. Makes canning a show more work.

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Lyle Romer
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Posts: 1400
From: Davie, FL, USA
Registered: May 2002


 - posted 05-22-2015 06:22 AM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Scott Norwood
For the record, I also happen to think that the airlines' common practice of overbooking (selling more than the available number of seats, on the basis that there will be some no-shows and offering free tickets in the event that too many people try to check in for the flight) is also unethical, but I seem to be alone on that one. Still, I have never heard a good explanation for why it is somehow acceptable to sell (say) 102 tickets for a flight on a 100-seat airplane.
I don't know how ethical it is but I understand why they do it. People like me, and probably most on this site, buy the lowest fare non-refundable tickets and will normally show up for the flight. If we don't, they still get the revenue because the ticket isn't refundable.

However, there are a decent number of travelers (more or less depending on route and time) that are business travelers on fully refundable tickets.

These travelers will make last minute changes to their flight plans and decide to take a different flight. If they sold only the number of seats on the plane, when one of these travelers cancels, that revenue is lost forever.

By overbooking, they maximize revenue. They account for the typical number of cancellations. They normally will get volunteers to take a later flight in return for a flight voucher.

I guess it's not that "unethical" if they get volunteers. In the event of involuntary bumps, the penalty is big for the airline. They have to compensate you in cash (or check) immediately for twice your ticket cost (up to a $650 maximum) if they can't get you to your destination within 1 hour of your scheduled arrival. If your arrival is over 2 hours late, they have to compensate you 4 times your ticket cost (up to $1300 maximum).

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Scott Norwood
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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-22-2015 07:12 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
My issue with overbooking is that something that does not exist is being sold. The airline or hotel guarantees transportation or a room to more people than it can accommodate. Eventually, someone will be denied something that was guaranteed. If airlines had the ability to swap out a larger plane in the event of overbooking of a flight on a smaller plane, I would have no problem with it, but this, effectively, never happens.

I understand the revenue argument and I understand that, occasonally, a "voluntarily" bumped passenger with a flexible schedule will be happy to get a free ticket (I have occasonally been that passenger), but it still reeks of over-selling.

Are there any movie theatres anywhere that would actually consider selling more tickets than they have seats for a given showtime?

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Marcel Birgelen
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From: Maastricht, Limburg, Netherlands
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 - posted 05-22-2015 07:30 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Lyle Romer
I don't know how ethical it is but I understand why they do it. People like me, and probably most on this site, buy the lowest fare non-refundable tickets and will normally show up for the flight. If we don't, they still get the revenue because the ticket isn't refundable.
I guess you somewhat answered your question yourself. The problem I have with those practices is that the service to the customer is nothing more than a variable in a big equation.

If you end up holding the shortest stick during this game of musical chairs while trying to board that plane, hoping to get your connecting flight on time, you couldn't care less about their motivations. Also, that money they promise you, is in many cases just petty cash compared to the real damages such events can cause and they wouldn't even give it to you, if there wasn't some regulation in place.

For a while, I ended up booking flights primarily on low-fares airlines, while all of their services suck and you're often treated like cattle, their technique of selling all seats in that plane practically non-refundable via a system pretty much like a Dutch auction seemingly avoids overbooking. Maybe we should start selling cinema tickets the same way? [Smile]

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Ken Lackner
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 - posted 05-22-2015 07:49 AM      Profile for Ken Lackner   Email Ken Lackner   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Lyle Romer
In the event of involuntary bumps, the penalty is big for the airline. They have to compensate you in cash (or check) immediately for twice your ticket cost (up to a $650 maximum) if they can't get you to your destination within 1 hour of your scheduled arrival. If your arrival is over 2 hours late, they have to compensate you 4 times your ticket cost (up to $1300 maximum).
According to who?

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Scott Norwood
Film God

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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 05-22-2015 08:45 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In fairness, I should add that not all airlines overbook their flights. Jet Blue does not and there may be others. Still, the practice reflects badly on the industry.

At one point in the mid-1980s there was significant competition between Pam Am and Eastern for the BOS<->LGA<->DCA air shuttle market. Most of these tickets were sold immediately before the flight (very few advance bookings were made). One of these companies did an interesting promotion where passengers were promised that, if they arrived on time for their flight, they would be guaranteed a seat, even if a second plane had to be brought out and flown with just one passenger. Apparently, this almost never actually happened, but it was an effective promotion at the time. (Obviously, this only worked because the flights were short and because there was a separate fleet of aircraft just for shuttle operations. Presumably, they had extra pilots and stewardesses available as well. It was not good enough to save either Pan Am or Eastern, though.)

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