As I continue my series on mystery shopping and working from home, here is another opportunity that sidelines both industries. These people are paid to watch movies and may spend the entire day at the movie theater watching a movie for free.
The job being referenced is called a movie theater counter. These people are contracted with one of the companies that have contracts with major production companies. While they get to watch the movies for free, there is some work involved. As a movie counter, you are responsible for counting every individual that comes in to watch the movie that you are assigned to. Depending on the company and movie, you may have a 1, 2, or 3 day weekend at the movie theater You are required to be there 15 minutes before each movie starts, and finish your paperwork at the end of the night. It’s up to you to do whatever you want in-between each movie. If you have a good rapport with the movie theater management, they may allow you to watch other movies playing at the theater as long as it doesn’t interfere with your movie counts. Your priority is to count the patrons. Movie theaters know that you are there. As people come into the movie you are assigned you, you must count them. Everyone has their own techniques. You also must keep track of who goes out so that you do not double count. Again, each person has their own ways.
Counting people is quite simple. For myself, I purchased a lap counter from the local sporting goods store, and I have a lanyard that I wear around my neck. This allows the lap counter to hang around my neck so that I don’t have to keep it in my pocket. The purpose for this is to prevent accidental clicks in my pocket. I want my number to be accurate. When a person walks out to get concessions or visit the rest room, I will begin counting on my fingers. As people come in, I will then put one finger down until all fingers are down again, then I begin clicking my lap counter again. This is because I may not remember who leaves, but allows for an accurate count. The person who left may have been counted when they enter again, but someone else who entered before them was not thus taking their place in the count. After waiting about 15 minutes, or 5 minutes into the show, I write down the number on a piece of paper, next to the show time. I then reset my counter. If I want to watch the show, if I have not already selected a seat, I find a seat nearby. Having the best seat in the house isn’t important, after all, not all shows are going to be full.
At the end of the night, you have to get a box office report from the theater management. The theater knows you are there. When you are first given the assignment, you have the paperwork and an authorization letter from Warner Brothers, Fox, Paramount Pictures, or whoever the major production company is. This allows you access into the movie theater The downside at the end of the night is that the manager may be busy counting drawers, and you must also wait for the box office to close. The show you may assign may be done, but until all shows have started playing, they cannot close the box office for the night. The paperwork involved varies from company to company. All require a calculator. You put your counts from the day on the form, as well as information from the box office report. When submitting it to the company, each company has its own version. One company may require you to fax it while another may require you to input it onto a online form on their website.
There are two types of movie counts. The one described above is called an Open Theater count. This means the theater knows you are there. The second type of count is a blind count. For this type of count, the movie theater does not know you are there, and will require out of pocket expenses. When you are paid for the job, you will be reimbursed, however you must remember to get a receipt and keep your ticket stubs. If you have a blind count, you may be able to get away with not purchasing a ticket for the next show. You can do this by sneaking into another theater, visiting the restroom, or sitting on the bench. If the theater is a busy one, they will not notice you. This is not advised until you have some experience in movie theater counting. You can get into trouble by the theater You must not reveal that you are counting if you are caught without a ticket.
So what’s the purpose of the counts? As one of my supervisors put it, “To keep the theaters honest.” Movie theaters are required to pay a royalty from every ticket sold. This is why concession prices are so high. Most of what the theater charges goes directly to Hollywood, so the theater’s main source of income is from the concession stand. If a theater doesn’t charge enough for tickets, the production company may not allow the theater to show the movie. This is the case with some of the cheaper movie theaters By counting people, you are confirming what they are telling the production company what they sold is true. A movie theater may change their numbers to try and keep some of the profits from the ticket sales. These counts prevent fraud from taking place. A blind count is often ordered if they suspect fraud from a theater A theater is obviously not going to change their sales numbers if they know a counter is there.
There is a third type of movie theater assignment called a Trailer Check. On the authorization letter for a trailer check, it states that the person performing the check is not authorized to view the movie. If the theater knows you, they won’t mind as long as you are not interfering with their normal operations. A Trailer check is when you write down all the trailers (previews) before the movie begins. There are several versions of a trailer check.
Contrary to what you may think, these jobs pay about $10 per show to count. If they play on multiple screens, you are often given a couple dollars for each screen, per show. Trailer checks pay anywhere from $7-$10 depending on the company you are doing them for. You may be paid as quickly as two weeks or wait as long as 6 weeks before you are paid. Also, these counts and trailer checks are not available on all movies. Production companies select certain movies in random markets across the United States. The size of the city may not matter. A person in a rural area may find themselves busier than someone living in a city of 200,000 people. You may get a movie once a month, or may not hear anything for 6 months, this is average.
By now, you are wondering what companies do this sort of work. There are three major companies that hire movie checkers. These three companies are: Market Force, TES, and National Audits. Be warned, when applying, TES and National Audits are loyal to their current counters. Often, you won’t be hired or contacted unless someone that works for them refers you. Market Force, on the other hand, shows no loyalty and will allow the first person to say they will do it, to do the job. It’s put on a job board along with some mystery shopping opportunities. The upside to Market Force is that they pay very quickly.
Till next time, peace out and good luck!