Do you like movies? Do you like being sneaky? Are you cheap? Are you interested in defrauding major corporations? If you answered ?yes? to any of these questions, then might be a potential movie hopper (like me). Once the sole province of youthful knaves, movie hopping is increasingly an option for the masses. Movie tickets are more expensive than ever, and the price is only going up. The quality of the movie theaters might be improving over the past decade, but have the quality of the movies themselves? What are we really paying for?
Once I started movie hopping, there was no turning back. I?ve pulled off countless triple-features (and even one quadruple-feature) over the years, all across the country. I truly believe it?s the only way to experience the movies, and I want to share what I?ve learned. You, too can stay up on the hottest movies, save money, act like a secret agent, and stick it to the Man- just follow my simple game plan..
Preparation is imperative. It?s not something you can just wing.
Step 1: Movie Selection
There?s more to this than you might think. Once I started this, it changed the way I appraise movies. Some movies are worth paying full-price for (Interstellar, Star Wars Ep VII, Mad Max: Fury Road), some movies are worth seeing, but not paying for (Independence Day II, Neon Demon, The Lobster), and some movies are fine to catch as a final part of a triple-feature, but it?s not a big deal if it doesn?t happen (Daddy?s Home, Bad Santa II, etc).
One thing to consider is that not all movies will be playing at all theaters. Big theaters might not be playing the artsier, indie films (e.g. Moonlight). Major blockbuster movies will probably have tighter security- especially the closer to their opening weekend you go, so those are a better first option (e.g. Any of the Marvels). In choosing show times, keep in mind previews take about 20 minutes. I like to err on the side of giving myself a little extra time between movies to find the next theater, maybe swap out friends, and find seats. The preview time can serve as a buffer in case the show times don?t match up perfectly.
Step 2: Theater Selection
Living in New York City, I?m spoiled with theater options- although I?ve found those sprawling suburban megaplexes offer very little challenge. The theaters in Times Square and Union Square are usually pretty good for theater hopping adventures. Avoid theaters with assigned seating- that can get tricky. 3-D movies almost always have restricted access, so if you are intent on seeing one (for me, it?s a gimmick that?s rarely worth the extra cost), make it the first option. Obviously, it?s always easier to do this in theaters you?ve been to and know the lay-out of, but there is an element of adventure when you are unsure of the lay-out beforehand. Something to consider.
Step 3: Companion Selection
A constant issue I keep bumping up against is that going to the movies is typically something you do with others. While I think more people should try going to the movies alone, it?s still a good experience to share once in a while. I also can?t stress strongly enough that movies are a terrible date activity early on in a relationship- but that?s a subject for another day. In considering a triple-feature, bear in mind that it?s very hard to get a group of people to all agree on the same three movies. My solution has been to invite specific friends to the different movies. Most people find sitting through three movies a strange, unappealing undertaking anyway. Another thing to keep in mind is that bringing female companions has the added benefit of that fact that women tend to bring bags, which makes it easier to sneak in snacks. An alternative to that is wearing layers (something that?s more justifiable in the colder months).
If you?ve properly prepared, you?ve picked your movies, you know their show times, and you?ve picked your companions. Make sure you buy your snacks and drinks before arriving at the theater. The mark-up is truly unforgivable. Buy your tickets at the ticket machines at the theater if you can. This is where you can find out the specific screen on which your movies are playing. Usually, the ticket ripper will ask to check your bag (if you brought one). This is where wearing layers comes in handy for concealing snacks and drinks, but I?ve found even if you put them in your bag and they see them, they don?t really care.
Also, bring an empty water bottle. The ticket ripper might allow any manner of snack, but they?re usually pretty strict about full water bottles for whatever reason (but not always). The water bottles can come in handy in instances where the theaters have self-service soda fountains.
Hopefully at this point, you?re in! Take pride in your efforts! Celebrate the magic of cinema! Luxuriate in your sneakiness!
Things don?t always go according the plan. Don?t worry. I actually relish the opportunity to think on my feet and freestyle. This is when the real challenges come in and when I thrive.
If it?s a theater you haven?t been to before, be prepared for assigned seats. You can check this by going through the purchasing process online beforehand. After that, security is the biggest issue. Theaters with a multi-floor lay-out often have the most points of restriction. Loews Lincoln Center and Regal Battery Park are good examples of this. They placed the descending escalators outside the security points. The Times Square and Union Square theaters just have stair cases that fall within their security points, allowing you to freely travel between floors. That?s why if you?re going to a new theater, try to have back-up movie options in case you find you don?t have access to all the screens.
Theaters usually place staff at the exits of screens where they thank you for coming, but don?t worry too much about being ID?d. The staff has usually turned over by the time you?re out of the 2nd movie.
If you get to the theater and you find that they do assign seats and you decide to take on the challenge, keep in mind that seats on the sides and front of the theater are the least likely to be taken.
Congratulations! You?ve just spent all day watching movies, being sneaky, and sticking it to the Man. I can?t think of a better way to spend a day.
But I invite you to ask yourself; what is the real measure of success for you? For me, I?m always looking for ways to push the envelope. Did three movies? Great- now try for four. Maybe dollar-per-movie is your preferred measure of success. How low can you get it? Go for the Matinee price or Student Discount (along with adding more movies). Those are how I measure success- but only you can define your success in the theater hopping game.
Epilogue: Solicitation of New Ideas
Like I said, I?m always looking to push the envelope. If any members of the reading public have innovative ideas for theater hopping, I?d love to hear them. One I?ve yet to try is to show up in business casual attire with a clipboard and a laminated name tag on a lanyard and tell the ticket ripper you?re here from corporate on a QA spot-check. One day? But you get the idea.
Anyway- I hope this helps! Go forth and theater hop, comrades.