Everybody Should Have To Work Customer Service Or Get The Fuck Out Of My Theater, Also Some Thoughts About Marvel’s Ant-Man And The Wasp
By Francis Friel, The Projectionist
Fuck your Purge. Know what happens when new Purge movies come out? Movie theater employees across the country brace themselves. They know what’s coming. They know that anytime a funny or cool or weird or otherwise Not Phantom Thread R-Rated movie comes out that the absolute worst customers on the fucking planet are going to show up and tear a hole through their entire lives. Movie theater executive officers and the MPAA knows this and they don’t give a shit, just like how the people that designed the new gigantic leather luxury recliners that got installed at my theater and look like they belong on a fucking space shuttle weren’t thinking about the fact that some usher would inevitably have to figure out how to open those motherfuckers up and clean under them or constantly have to be digging around under the seats trying to reinstall weird little cables every fucking time the recliner button mechanism doesn’t work and some lunatic comes crying and screaming that their fucking gigantic leather luxury recliner isn’t fucking reclining properly. And hey, I get it! You want those things to work! You paid way too much money to sit in it for two hours! Believe me, being annoyed makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is to design these things in such a way that they need to be in a very specific position to correctly be worked on and when they get stuck in literally any other position - as they always will when the goddam buttons stop working - they’re the biggest fucking pain in the ass to try and fix. In the dark. While an angry person is looming over you and complaining in an almost comically over the top way. So. The MPAA. They impose these rules, right? Anyone under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian to see an R-Rated film. Wanna know how many kids are going to see these fucking Purge movies with their fucking adult guardians? Fucking zero.
But that doesn’t stop us. We follow the rules. We are the force that stalls all incoming children from running around just seeing whatever goddam movie they want. Personally, if you can get it together and get your ass down to the theater, I think you should be allowed to watch whatever stupid as shit movie you have your misguided heart set on seeing. Why should I care? I don’t. I don’t care even a little bit. However, as a movie theater manager we are trained to follow these rules, basically there to make sure there aren’t gangs of nine year olds running and yelling and ruining the precious Purge movies for you, texting, laughing, ripping the sconces off the walls and setting fire to kids packs. So that’s why the rule is there.
But we’re also trained to back up our employees, because if you think ushers and box office cashiers are being paid enough to put up with even the smallest amount of abuse from your ass, THINK AGAIN. They’re either high school kids who don’t understand or even give a poop at all about the MPAA to begin with or they’re retirees who just want to get through the night without getting a large popcorn to the face. Which brings me to what happened to me the other night on opening night of The First Purge.
All night long we were under siege by groups of teenagers who were either under 17 or - more usually - it would be like five out of the six would have their IDs but the last one didn’t have theirs and therefore we couldn’t sell that last kid a ticket. So we’d have to go through this whole song and dance where we offer them tickets to a different show, then we all pretend for some reason that they’re going to actually go see Uncle Drew instead of The First Purge. And because it’s the fourth of July and it’s dead as fuck in this movie theater (except for all the kids who inexplicably have nothing better to do with all their destructive, abusive energy than sit in a movie for two hours instead of setting off fireworks as if we don’t live in Motherfucking North Carolina and literally nothing is against the law and they can therefore set off those fireworks on each other’s faces if they really wanted to) we’ve sent most of the staff home cause they don’t want to be at work anymore and would rather go firecracker each other’s faces.
There’s no one patrolling the hallways. So we know these kids are just gonna go sneak into the movie they came to see. And they’ll sit in the wrong seats cause we have assigned seating at my theater and they obviously don’t have tickets for any seats in the wrong auditorium. Someone will come out and complain that there’s some kids in their seats, then I’ll have to go in there and very gently, as if talking to a baby, explain that hey, you have to get up because the people that paid for those seats actually want to sit in those seats. Crazy! And so you get cursed out, the kids leave, they ask for their money back, they start crying about how they have to wait for their parents to pick them up because they dropped them off because the parents were the ones who bought the tickets online and YOU’RE GONNA BE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE WHEN MY DAD GETS HERE and I’m like motherfucker my dad beat the fucking unholy living shit out of me everyday for my entire life so I am not in any way afraid of what your dad is gonna say to me when I tell him you asked for a refund and you got your refund but whatever, whatever you say, it’s fine, whatever you say is fine.
So here’s what happened when a guy in his late 30s threw a large popcorn at me.
Dude comes up to the box office and asks for three tickets to The First Purge. The box office cashier, who has been watching this guy talk to two women seated on the sofas in the lobby before he got in line for tickets, asks to see everyone’s IDs. He gets mad, starts cursing at her immediately, and says he wants his three tickets or he wants to see a manager. So she calls me over. Which is really great because I had been trying to leave work for hours because, as I said, it’s slow.
Not only is it slow, but check this out. I’m the projectionist at my theater and I rely on some guy I’ve never met who works in some corporate office I’ll never visit to give me all the trailer pack information and things like that on Wednesdays to get all the new prints ready for the weekend. But since today is not only Wednesday but also the fourth of July and that fucking asshole in the corporate office I couldn’t picture in my mind’s eye if I tried wanted the day off as if we don’t all work in an industry that wouldn’t even shut down a theater if that motherfucker was on fire (not an exaggeration, by the way - this theater has caught fire before and reopened a few hours later) and is also open 365 days a year no matter what, NO MATTER WHAT, this guy sent me all that info a day early. Point being, all my work is already done, I’m serving no real purpose just wandering around the theater pretending to give a shit that a bunch of teenagers are sneaking into a movie made for fucking teenagers, so I’m trying to go home. But no. I get called over to talk to this mess of a human being. Goes like this:
ME: How can I help you?
HIM: You can’t fucking help me. She can’t fucking help me. Just give me my fucking tickets. I’m trying to pay for these motherfuckers. You want this money?
ME: Okay, I can help you. Can I ask, was there a specific reason you asked for a manager, is there anything further I can do for you?
HIM: She asked to see a fucking ID. To see a fucking movie?? Why am I showing you my fucking ID?
ME: The MPAA --
HIM: [sticking his hand IN my face, not close to it, but he TOUCHES my nose] I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ALL THAT.
HIM: Am I getting these FUCKING tickets or not? Yes or no?
HIM: Give me three tickets. [He dismissively throws two twenties on the counter, one falls behind the counter. I pick it up, put it with the other, flatten them on the counter and slide them back towards him]
ME: We’re not selling you tickets tonight, Sir
HIM: [grabbing his money] FUCK YOU.
He walks back over to the sofas where the two women he came in with are still sitting. They’ve been watching this entire scene but I haven’t really had a chance to pay attention to them or gauge at all what they’re making of all this. He leans into one of their faces and screams “GET your fucking ass up, let’s GO.” And they all get up to leave. He’s still yelling at us the entire time, calling me a motherfucker, a pussy, telling me to be a man and that if I was a man I wouldn’t be working a job like this, that if I was a man and we met in the street and I didn’t have an old lady and a counter to hide behind that this would’ve turned out differently, and much worse, for me (like, if we were in the street and I told you I wasn’t letting you in to see the Purge, or…?), he calls me worse things I won’t repeat here only because they’re inclusion would just be pointless, slurs as they were and not relevant.
The point being, he’s pissed. So pissed that he spins around, right as he’s got his hand on the door to leave, and throws (hard) the full large bucket of popcorn he took from one of the women he’s with. Popcorn is flying everywhere, and I’m a little surprised by how fast the thing is moving. I would’ve probably guessed it would be slower, lighter in the air, that it wouldn’t have felt so threatening, but jesus christ this thing is coming right at me. It hits me, hits the lady behind the box office, popcorn is now covering the entire carpeted area in front of the box office, which is a MOTHERFUCKER to clean up, if you’ve never had to do it. Popcorn off a carpet. That’s annoying! It’s also all over the counter, all the paperwork is now buttery, it’s all over the goddamn floor behind the counter now and I’m kind of just looking at him. I’m thinking, this is it. I’m walking out of here. This is just too much. This whole thing escalated in the space of about two minutes. That’s how quickly this shit happens.
Okay but so the thing I’m getting at here is that this dude sucked. And that would’ve been fine if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was still a full day away from the point in time when I could’ve just said, “Hey, you can’t get into your dumb Purge movie but know what else is out? Ant-Man!”
And Ant-Man is great! It’s really funny! I’ve seen it one and a half times now (I fell asleep about an hour in the second time, not for any other reason than because I was just tired as a mother-trucker after working all night fighting off teenagers who wanted to see the Purge). And if you’re wondering if it somehow ties into the apocalyptic ending of Infinity War, well… there’s only one way to find out. But I want to remind everyone here that the second Infinity War ended I totally called it, almost shot for shot predicted the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp. But whatever. It still works. It’s smart of Marvel to keep releasing these Antjawns right after the big Earth-shattering nonsense that is these Avengers movies. Next year we’ll get Captain Marvel, Infinity War 2, and Far From Home. I’m looking forward to all of them.
Last year in my Guardians 2 and Homecoming reviews I talked about how good the studio is finally getting at presenting believable, related characters. Ant-Man isn’t exactly in that mold but what it does well is set up a clockwork zaniness mechanism then watch all the pieces just topple until its true intentions are revealed. It moves so quickly and effortlessly from one weirdo set-piece to the next that the two hours of its running time just fly by, and it never misses a step in taking advantage of just how bizarre Ant-Man’s world and powers really are. Go see it if for no other reason than I want it to trounce the Purge so badly that they stop making them and make the movie theater usher’s life that little bit easier.