All This For Some Useless Movie Tickets


Going to the show isn’t what it used to be.

Growing up, I remember my sis and I would frequently blow our allowance to go to a movie. Practically every weekend from 1985 to 1988 we went to the show at least once.

The feeling I’d get from sitting at the movie theatre…The anticipation of the start of the movie…The little lights that would guide your path to your seat…The ornate statuettes that adorned the walls…The smell of popcorn and assorted candy goodness. All of these things conjure up fond memories of going to the show.

Once I got older, going to the show became more of an afterthought. Less time, and less interest in what was released led to a trend of seeing a movie at the theatre maybe half a dozen times a year. Today, I am on a five-year trend of seeing only one movie per year. Why?


Well, because as I get older, my interest in hanging around and sitting next to strangers has waned. It’s expensive to go to the show, and not that money is a problem, it’s just that I would rather spend that money toward a good TV, Blu-Ray and stereo system than sit in a stinky theatre. And while we talk stink, I have also realized that some of these places are not that clean. At least I can control cleanliness in the comfort of my own living room. Added bonuses include beating the 200% mark-up by making my own popcorn, the ability to pause the movie at will to use my own bathroom, and lastly, having access to my wireless device while the movie is running without fear of an usher telling me to turn it off. As time passes, I forget all these things in an attempt to revive my fond memories of my movie experiences from childhood, and to potentially see a great blockbuster on the silver screen. Once a year.

Last Spring, our “yearly pilgrimage” movie experience was Star Trek: Into Darkness. My hubs and I decided to take in a Matinee at the Empire Theatre in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Located in the community of Elgin Mills, this multiplex is an older theatre located at the edge of a strip mall.

When we walked into the theatre, we were struck by the fact it appeared deserted. No one was at the box office to help us; there was a sign directing us to the concession stand to buy our tickets. I turned to the hubs and said, “Hmm, really? I don’t think I’ve ever bought any movie tickets at the concession stand…”

The concession stand was located down a sweeping spiral staircase. We got in line at the velvet rope, making note of the time: 20 minutes until showtime. Just ahead of us we couldn’t help but notice a group of 25 children with two adult escorts in line ahead of us. Each child was buying their own movie ticket and ordering assorted confections – pop, popcorn, candy…and totally stressing out the two 16-year-olds behind the counter. Those poor teens were sweating to the oldies, which isn’t just an expression by the way – Chubby Checker was playing over the loud-speaker. 10 minutes go by and the line hadn’t moved.

“Where’s the manager?” I whispered to the hubs.  Looking around, he shrugged his shoulders.

Another lady behind us must have overheard me because she asked me how long we had been waiting. She also said she didn’t want to buy anything else – just tickets. She was with her elderly mom. I said that we too were only after tickets. But, here we wait for two teens to cover the orders for 27 people. Some would say it’s good for those kids behind the counter to learn how to work under pressure. Sure, but at the detriment of customer service, I say. We were about to miss the movie.

Finally, with no time to spare (T + 5 minutes), we got our tickets and sprinted to theatre 3. No one was around to rip our tickets. And still no manager to be found. Where is everyone?

We finally get to our theatre, feeling our way for a seat in the dark as the previews were playing. Thankfully, we didn’t have much competition for a seat as there were about ten other people in the theatre.

Sitting there, I couldn’t help but notice that the theatre smelled musty, and it looked like Rocky Horror Picture Show had played in that theatre at some point recently – the screen was stained with “who knows what”. Zachary Quinto’s forehead kept running into it. Into Darkness was an okay film – not my favourite, but the theatre experience could have been a lot better.

When I got home I posted a status to my friends on Facebook telling them of my movie experience. A friend encouraged me to complain. “They should know about this,” he said.

I am not one to “write to the company” to complain. These things never end how I want them to. Get a bad meal then spend 15 minutes arguing with management about how my tastebuds are defective and that the meal is supposed to taste like extra spicy roadkill…and then walk away paying for it out of pocket and only getting a measly dessert out of it? No thanks, dude*. I was thinking this movie experience was similar – we just would never go back. At the same time I think there is value in an opinion, and if I don’t say anything, then I am allowing this type of customer service to continue. I decided I will just say my piece and never go back to Empire Theatres. The end.

What would be the best way? I thought about it, then I remembered – TWITTER!

I don’t often use Twitter for anything, but I found out the theatre had its own Twitter account. Alrighty then. I’m going in…




So what became of this? Empire Theatres encouraged me to contact them directly via email. They insisted they make it up to me, but never explained lack of management, poor cleanliness, nor why we’d be buying tickets at the concession stand. I got these in the mail:


Two free movie passes and two free refreshments – popcorn and drink for two. These were due to expire in late 2014 and Spring 2015! Okaaay, fiiiine…. I had to admit that was nice. Free movie tickets…okay, Hubs, what movie are we seeing?

We sat on this decision for months which is not unusual for us, considering our track record with movie-going. Besides, their expiry date was a long way away. We had plenty of time. Last month, we went to look up what was playing at old Empire…and got some shocking news…

About two weeks after our experience at the theatre in Richmond Hill, it had shut down completely for about six months. It got sold and reopened as a Cineplex Theatres franchise, not affiliated in any way to Empire, which meant those movie tickets were useless! BLAST!

Empire was owned by the Sobey’s chain of Canadian grocery stores. As I understand it, in an attempt to save money, Sobey’s made the decision in June 2013 to sell off their stock of movie theatres. So, I suspect Empire knew they were shutting down, which would stand to reason why they could dole out such awesome movie passes – ’cause although technically they were “good” until 2015, they were really only good for a couple of weeks; the bastards…

I wish I had a really good moral to this story, like, “Always inform a company when you feel they are in the wrong…you might be rewarded.” (Operative word being “might”). This experience has shown me that given the circumstances, it might be worth the effort to complain (there’s that “might” word again). Just be wary of what you are given as consolation…Oh, and read the Financial Post…

*Lookin’ at you, Kelsey’s on Bayfield St, Barrie, Ontario – circa 1999…



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  1. I’ve had that concession experience myself, getting somewhere 25 mins early and only just making the showing. I feel your pain.


  2. I’m on the “movie theater every 5 years” plan. It takes me at least 5 years to almost forget how dirty and uncomfortable they are! I’ll watch a movie on Netflix or Amazon in the comfort of my own home, in my jammies, thank you very much! I’m with you on this one.


  3. What a rotten story. I’d be pissed off too. I don’t really go out to movies anymore either, for different reasons (wife’s epileptic). Yesterday, I watched The Amazing Spider Man (2012) for the first time and loved it.

    I have a pretty decent home theater setup – 7.1 surround sound, 1080p hi-def, etc. All I’m missing is 3D and I’d never need to go out to see a movie again.


    1. Right, I remember reading about Jen.
      Yeah, we enjoy staying at home to watch a show. Besides the fact the hubs needs to go half way through thanks to the big cokes they have you drink.
      My set up is 5.1 (was 7.1, but speakers are in the hub’s gaming room), 1080p all the bells. Good enough for me. Plus a fridge full of club soda and a freezer full o’ munchies. Good to go!


  4. What a frustrating experience, and all they reimburse you is useless coupons?
    Corporate Weasels !!
    I haven’t been to the movies in years. A buddy and I nearly went to see “Elysium” last summer solely for the IMAX experience, but gave up on the idea after 10 minutes in line surrounded by noisy pre-teens.


    1. We talk about going to IMAX – I just can’t convince myself to fight the traffic to get to the IMAX theatre (Vaughan – 400 and hwy 7, if you are familiar with the area). And the people. I used to get all excited when I saw a movie theatre. I just don’t have that feeling these days.


      1. I saw Man of Steel in IMAX 3D last year. I didn’t have the issue that Earl had with the pre-teens, but the IMAX 3D experience was unpleasant because it gave me a headache. I’ve seen an IMAX movie now, I can say I’ve done it. Unless KISS put out an IMAX movie (and let’s face it, you know somebody’s pitched the idea to Gene Simmons) then I can’t see bothering again.


        1. Exact same experience with 3D tvs I’ve had, or the Nintendo 3DS. Screws with my brain and gives me a headache.
          Years ago, Science North, Sudbury’s science centre had an IMAX 3D type experience on nature. Wasn’t a bad film, but the 3D did give me a headache.


          1. I saw Avatar in 3D (twice) and had no issues at all. But that was an exceptionally well made 3D movie. It wasn’t piles of grey shit flying across the screen for 3 hours like Man of Steel was.

            Never watched a 3D TV. I’d like to have one. I’d like to be able to have some 3D movies at home.


            1. We have one – a Sony PS3 3D TV. It worked for about 1 hour, now broken. There’s a known problem with them. It’s rotting in the garage now.We’re hoping soon a firmware update will be released and will fix it.

              I do think it depends on what type of film it is – action doesn’t do well with my eyes.


            2. Watch for them black friday best buy on-line sales…no refunds on that bad boy. It was a risk, and we were really stupid to ignore the reviews. REALLY STUPID! (known problems, not with all of them, but yeah. We were dealt a bum TV). We are savvy consumers…usually…


      2. It doesn’t have the same impact any more. I miss the older theater theme nights. The long-gone downtown Roxy where I saw “Eraserhead”, “Plan 9 From Outer Space”, & “Creature From The Haunted Sea” all in one night.


        1. London, Ontario had one of these called the New Yorker – old gems played there with some cheap salty popcorn. Triple features were frequent. I saw Shaft in 1996 in that theatre, damn it! Those are some strong memories!


            1. YES! Awesome that you know this place. The New Yorker is no longer, sadly. I suppose you know of the Richmond Mews too, then. That was a great spot to see a movie too. I don’t think that’s around any more.


  5. The experience is no better in the UK and it’s very hard to persuade kids that we’re not queuing to buy popcorn as well as tickets. Really sets the mood for the whole experience! And who needs a bucket of popcorn bigger than your head anyway??


  6. Things aren’t so terrible where I live – theatres are usually clean and online booking, efficient. But I’m beginning to prefer the home theatre experience, due to the sheer number of people who can’t stop using their cellphones during the movie!


    1. That’s here too, even though they post a reminder at the start to turn off your cellphones! It’s like there needs to be a force field that shuts off your electronic device when you enter the theatre!


  7. My lovely wife took our son to see the new Planes movie, this past Sunday, and same thing. Box officed closed and they had to stand in line at the concession to get tickets. All the waiting cut it pretty close for them even getting into the show on time. She was pretty ticked, especially since there was a vibrating-with-excitement five-ear-old boy beside her finding it impossible to stand still and wait.


    1. Bad sign. You better hope your theatre isn’t closing down. If this is “the new trend” I definitely will not be going to the theatre for a long time!


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