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#1
Old 12-18-2003, 02:35 PM
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Do Theatres Run the Movie if No One is There?

Last night while standing in line for RotK, I heard one of the theatre workers commenting that they had sold out all showings of Return of the King while none of the other 20+ screens had sold more than 20 tickets for any one showing.

"In fact", he said "we had a couple of empty showings."

This leads to my question. If a movie start time comes up and no one has bought a ticket for that movie, does the theatre go ahead and run the movie to an empty room or do they just say "to heck with it" and wait until the next showing? The comment I heard implies the "empty room" but does anyone know?
#2
Old 12-18-2003, 02:48 PM
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I worked as a projectionist in the late 1970s to early 80s. We would run the movies to empty houses. They have to start on schedule, so the ending doesn't overlap the next starting time. I still have nightmares that I'm 40 minutes late starting a movie.

Back in those days, you usually saw two different movies for your ticket and if you came in late, you could stay and watch what you missed or even the whole movie again.

Often though, if it was the last show, the ticket booth was closed and no one was left in a particular theatre where a movie was still running, I would stop the projector so we could shut down that theatre for the night.
#3
Old 12-18-2003, 03:10 PM
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Quote:
Often though, if it was the last show, the ticket booth was closed and no one was left in a particular theatre where a movie was still running, I would stop the projector so we could shut down that theatre for the night.
Was that on a single-reel projector?

In the cinema I worked at (a Multi-plex in the 80s / 90s) I was under the impression once it started it had to finish. -Of course we spliced the reels together and ran them off a platter, so I guess it would be more difficult to unwind a partially finished film than to just let it finish.
#4
Old 12-18-2003, 03:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by NoGoodNamesLeft
Was that on a single-reel projector?

In the cinema I worked at (a Multi-plex in the 80s / 90s) I was under the impression once it started it had to finish. -Of course we spliced the reels together and ran them off a platter, so I guess it would be more difficult to unwind a partially finished film than to just let it finish.
We had the same kind of setup. But I would just cut the film and re-splice it, bypassing the projector and manually operating the take-up clutch to wind the film onto the platter at a much quicker rate than if it ran through the projector.

I got to a point that I could splice a film while it was running. For example, to fix where someone had improperly cut the film and the picture then would jump out of frame at that spot. I would mark the location with a piece of paper and then at the next showing, I'd pull a bunch of film onto the floor up to the splice and then (hopefully) get the splice repaired before I lost all of my slack.

We also had "interlock" capabilities, where one film could be shown in two theatres at once. The movie would be threaded through one projector, then through a series of pulleys to an adjacent theatre's projector, wher it would then be taken up on one of that projector's platters. The projectors were syncronized with servos, which required installing an extra drive belt on each unit to do so. Only did that a few times. We had a big problem with static electricity causing the film to jam the feed platters, which often caused a big mess. So if you broke the single film being shown in two theatres at once, you'd have twice as many partons upset. Not to mention a more complicated restart.

IIRC, one movie we did the double play on was The Empire Strikes Back.
#5
Old 12-18-2003, 03:43 PM
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When I was running a multi-plex a few years back, if the show was 15-20 minutes in we would turn off the lamp and let the show run through. If someone showed up later it'd be simple to turn the lamp back on lower the lights and not run over into the next show time. The bulbs are prohibtively expensive and the hours are tracked like miles on a car. If you can lengthen the bulb life you save some money. The profit margins are razor thin in some small markets and we would watch every penny.

If there was just one ticket sold we would run the show, no matter what.
#6
Old 12-18-2003, 05:35 PM
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Here's an older thread on the same subject. A lot of behind-the-scenes movie theater info in it:

Empty movie theaters, or, Must the Show Go On?
#7
Old 12-18-2003, 06:11 PM
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Thanks Max, lots of good stuff in that thread. (Either I didn't enter the right search terms or my search didn't go back that far.) Anyway, I gather that the movies do play to empty theatres. Seems strange but I see why they do it that way.
#8
Old 12-18-2003, 10:39 PM
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I love that thread! That's the last time anyone asked about anything I actually knew crap about. Heh.
#9
Old 12-19-2003, 08:25 AM
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If you are running a platter you can stop the projector and take the film out of the heads. (projector and sound head)

Then use your fingers to be an extra roller and hold it out to the side of the heads and you can 'fast foward' the print through. Then you can go home early.
#10
Old 12-19-2003, 10:14 PM
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I remember Sunday evening in 1980 when I was going to see the new movie opening at the Jefferson Square Theater. As I approached the box office to buy me ticket, the ticket seller says, "Um, well, so far, you're the first person who's shown up to see it." It had opened Friday. I responded, "Well, are you going to be showing it tonight?" He said, "No, and we're probably not going to show it at all."

It would be another 20 years before I would see this movie, The Apple (1980), a defining moment in the career of Catherine Mary Stewart, and the singing debuts of Vladek Sheybal and Joss Ackland, whose best know roles are, for Sheybal, the Doctor in the Gerry Anderson series "UFO" and for Ackland, the South African ambassador in one of the "Lethal Weapon" movies and the Soviet ambassador in "The Hunt for Red October."
#11
Old 12-20-2003, 03:15 AM
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I saw "The Patriot" at the theater with no other patrons to annoy or ruin the experience.
#12
Old 12-20-2003, 03:51 AM
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It was always my goal to see a film with nobody else in the theate.

It almost happend once, in the 70's, but at the last minute, someone else walked in.

And then, miracle of miracles, my SO and I went to see the film SHRECK after it had been out for about a month...we simply hadn't found the time.

We went into a large multiplex on a weekday I called in sick and voila...we were the only ones there!!!!

It was great! Like having our own screening room.

On the subject, I met a guy who used to be a projectionist, and he told me they always showed the films, even if nobody was in the audience, as sometimes people showed up to see a particular scene. He had people show up for films, sit for ten minutes and leave...and do the same the next night for the same scene. He never knew why, but also, during the day, the films were shown just to keep the timing right...and in a large multiplex, he was basically just running from one screen to the next and rarely had time to see if anybody was actually in there to watch.
#13
Old 12-20-2003, 05:36 AM
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I saw Batman Forever in an empty Cinema. No one else showed up for the whole film!
#14
Old 12-20-2003, 06:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonoVox
I saw "The Patriot" at the theater with no other patrons to annoy or ruin the experience.
Well, the movie alone would do that.


I used to go to the Dorval Theatre specifically because the place was almost always empty and I didn't have to deal with audiences. One time, me and three buddies sat through Super Troopers and it was just us.

That theatre has since closed. I didn't see that coming at all!
#15
Old 12-20-2003, 02:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by DMark
On the subject, I met a guy who used to be a projectionist, and he told me they always showed the films, even if nobody was in the audience, as sometimes people showed up to see a particular scene.

I ran a small theatre on the Outer Banks during for 6 months during 1995 and I wore all the hats there....box office, popcorn jockey, projectionist, asshole manager.

You always buffer enough time so that you should have 20-25 mins inbetween showings so that people can get out, you can clean the theatre and people can get in.

If there were no tickets sold for a particular showing, we would let it wait 15 mins or so without starting it. If no one showed up we did not play the movie. TS if someone wanted to come for a particular scene (it neve happened, though).
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#16
Old 12-21-2003, 12:26 AM
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Saw a movie all alone once, in 1993. Well, actually not along, but with a girl. But we were the only ones in there.

Like Water for Chocolate was the movie, and ran at the multiplex closest to the University of Washington for most of a year.

Also, the only blow job I've ever received in a movie theater.
#17
Old 12-21-2003, 03:28 AM
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In 1999, I got to see The Phantom Menace with a couple of buddies. We were the only ones in the theatre... it was the first day, first evening show on a Friday!
#18
Old 12-21-2003, 08:08 AM
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They have to show the film when the theatre's empty, otherwise the trees might fall in the forest. However the film will be silent. It's the one-handed clapping at the end that makes it fun.
#19
Old 12-21-2003, 09:53 AM
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I once was the only person in the theater for a film (at a multiplex). Just before the film was to start, a theater employee came in and tried to persuade me to take a coupon for a future showing so they didn't have to show the film. I said that I wanted to see it right then (since a coupon wouldn't have compensated me for the cost of my driving to the theater and the drink I bought), so they showed it with just me as a customer.
#20
Old 12-21-2003, 10:36 AM
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Papa Tiger and I were the only folks in the theater recently for a showing of The Station Agent (which was a real shame because it's a fabulous little movie!). I remember being all by myself in a theater years ago, too, for half a movie (can't remember what movie right now) and being mightily annoyed when someone else joined me midway through it. I felt so special having a private movie showing!
#21
Old 12-21-2003, 12:16 PM
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Two friends and I once went to see The Watcher at a theater in our small college town, and we ended up being the only ones there.
#22
Old 12-21-2003, 03:43 PM
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When did movie Theatres Stop Continuously -Running Films?

Many rears ago, you would walk intio a theatre at any time, and the featured film would be running. You could stay as long as you wanted..and see the film end to end. When did this practice stop? Was it because of the advertising that they tack onto the fron of every film today?
#23
Old 12-22-2003, 02:58 AM
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Re: When did movie Theatres Stop Continuously -Running Films?

Quote:
Originally posted by ralph124c
Many rears ago, you would walk intio a theatre at any time, and the featured film would be running.
Ah, yes, the memory of so many rears...

Anyway, saw A.I. with about 4 other patrons in San Francisco. It was in a HUGE theater, maybe 700 seats... an interesting experience...

hrh
#24
Old 12-22-2003, 03:39 AM
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I've shown up late for movies before only to find a completely empty theater.

I also live in a small town, so this isn't all that uncommon.
#25
Old 12-22-2003, 04:29 AM
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I went to see a movie with a friend. We had movie passes, and wanted to see 'The Full Monty'.

They weren't accepting passes for 'The Full Monty', so we got tickets to 'The Game', which was running at app. the same time, then we ducked into the theater that 'The Full Monty' was playing in and waited. And waited.

After a while we realized they weren't going to show the movie, because nobody had bought tickets - it was showtime and the lights were still on. So we went and saw 'The Game' instead.
#26
Old 12-22-2003, 03:13 PM
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I nipped down to see the last showing of Veronica Guerin -- 9:30 or so on a Thursday and it was gone the next day. 80-seat theater (the smallest they had) with no one but me there, and I got in on a pass. Made money on the soda and popcorn, though.

DD
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