Customer Service

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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