10 Hacks for a More Pleasant Movie Theater Experience


In theory, the movies are great, right? You roll up to the theater with a friend or your significant other, and get in line to buy your tickets. But wait: the movie you had planned to see is sold out. No matter. You settle for the next best thing, then head to the concession stand … where you proceed to spend $30 on two popcorns and two sodas. Mildly annoyed, you take your seats—all the way up front, because those are the only ones available—crane your neck, and watch as the opening credits roll. Then, just as the action gets good (and your neck has adjusted to that unnatural posture), you feel a familiar pressure on your bladder.

While you'd be justified in swearing off the movies forever after an evening like that, we promise there's a better way. Here are 10 tips to help your trip to the local theater be what you hoped it would all along: fun. 

1. Buy tickets in bulk. 

Bulk tickets are usually about 25% or more off the regular ticket price, and can be purchased at Costco or Sam’s Club. AMC Theaters offer premium Gold E-Tickets, which are somewhat unrestricted and can be used at any time, day, and AMC location (but expect to pay an extra surcharge for 3D and IMAX screenings). 

Cinemark offers a bulk ticket program called Platinum Supersaver, while Regal Cinemas offers Premiere Movie Tickets for deep discounts. In addition, AARP and AAA members can get up to 40% off regular box-office prices for AMC, Regal, Bowtie, and Showcase Cinemas across the United States.

If you're feeling bold, you can also go directly to the customer service desk and (politely) ask for discount tickets. Sometimes, they’ll just give you a coupon or voucher. Most theaters also offer discounts for anyone with a valid military, student, or senior citizen I.D. card. 

2. Give these apps a try.

Like Netflix for theater-goers, Moviepass lets you see as many flicks as you want (excluding 3D and IMAX movies) for just $30 a month.

Runpee is exactly what it sounds like: an app that lets you know when you should use the bathroom. It features every film currently in theaters and pinpoints long scenes that don't include a crucial plot twist, a great comedic moment, or an exciting and thrilling action sequence, buzzing you to let you know it's time to run for the toilet. 

Cinemark’s mobile app boasts “Cinemode,” a feature that dims your screen, silences your phone, and gives you rewards like free popcorn and soda upgrades if you don’t touch your device while watching a film at a Cinemark theater. 

3. Choose your seats carefully.

Not all seats are created equal. Audio technicians usually check the sound about two-thirds of the way back and in the center of the auditorium, which means this is the best place to sit for crisp, clean audio. If you sit too far off to the side, the sound might be softer than in the center. 

4. Consider bringing earplugs.

While the film industry standard for sound is 85 decibels, many theaters actually turn up the volume—to the point where certain scenes hit 130 decibels. (For comparison, that's about how loud a jet is when it takes off.) Unfortunately, there are no regulations forcing theaters to comply with industry standards or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended safe level, which is about 85 to 90 decibels. With that in mind, it's a good idea to pack a pair of earplugs just in case—especially for any children in your party. 

5. Don't be afraid to walk out.

If you’re about 20 to 30 minutes into a movie and you realize that you just don’t like it, most theater managers will let you swap tickets to watch another. If nothing else strikes your fancy, ask for a voucher that can be redeemed on your next visit. 

If fellow audience members, not the plot, are the problem, most theaters will try to make it up to you with free tickets or concessions. 

6. Choose your snacks wisely.

If you're not rebellious enough to go the outside food and drink route, stick with popcorn and boxed candy when you place your order. Hot dogs and nachos may be warm, but they're not usually fresh.

Wonder why you're forced to fork over so much cash for a drink and a snack? It turns out theaters don’t make much money from the movies they screen. Up to 70% of the ticket price goes to the distributor and studio, while theater owners get the rest. Because theaters depend on concession sales for most of their profits, they charge accordingly.

Still, you shouldn't feel guilty if you can't seem to resist the siren song of the (very pricey) popcorn stand. Some theaters will connect the exhaust from their popcorn machines to vents in the auditorium in order to sell more buckets.

7. Grab an extra straw—for your popcorn.   

Placing a simple straw between the butter machine's nozzle and your popcorn will more evenly distribute the butter inside of your bucket. 

8. Keep an eye out for free screenings.

New movies often screen for press, media, and fans weeks before they’re set for release. Studios want to generate advance buzz, and it doesn’t cost them much to rent out a theater and let critics and fans watch films early. While these special advanced screenings are usually closed to the general public, there are a number of websites and services that can help you get access. Sites like Gofobo, See It First, and Get Screening are good places to start. 

9. If you're paying for IMAX, make sure you're getting the full experience.

The standard IMAX screen size is about 72 feet wide by 52 feet tall, but some theaters just can’t accommodate those sizes, which means some IMAX screens are smaller than others. For example, in NYC's Times Square, the IMAX screen at the AMC Empire 25 is just 58 feet wide by 28 feet tall, compared to the IMAX screen at the AMC Lincoln Square in Manhattan, which is a whopping 97 feet wide by 76 feet tall. (Even on the smaller screen, you're paying the same premium IMAX price.)

IMAX’s theater locator and IMAX or LIEMAX? are resources you can use to help you find the right theater. Once you're there, try to snag a seat anywhere in the center of the top five rows. This way, you have a good view of the entire screen and get the best sound experience at the same time.

10. Sign up for a loyalty program.

The more you spend at a certain chain, the more rewards you get. AMC Stubs, which costs $12 a year to join, gives its members $10 for every $100 they spend on tickets and concessions. Regal Crown Club is a free program that gives members credits towards discounts on concessions and free tickets. 

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10 People Who Have Misplaced Their Oscars
Getty Images
Getty Images

Winning an Oscar is, for most, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Unless you’re Walt Disney, who won 22. Nevertheless, owning a little gold guy is such a rarity that you’d think their owners would be a little more careful with them. Now, not all of these losses are the winners' fault—but some of them certainly are, Colin Firth.


After Angelina Jolie planted a kiss on her brother and made the world wrinkle their noses, she went onstage and collected a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lisa in Girl, Interrupted. She later presented the trophy to her mother, Marcheline Bertrand. The statuette may have been boxed up and put into storage with the rest of Marcheline’s belongings when she died in 2007, but it hasn’t yet surfaced. “I didn’t actually lose it,” Jolie said, “but nobody knows where it is at the moment.”


In 2002, Whoopi Goldberg sent her Ghost Best Supporting Actress Oscar back to the Academy to have it cleaned and detailed, because apparently you can do that. The Academy then sent the Oscar on to R.S. Owens Co. of Chicago, the company that manufactures the trophies. When it arrived in the Windy City, however, the package was empty. It appeared that someone had opened the UPS package, removed the Oscar, then neatly sealed it all back up and sent it on its way. It was later found in a trash can at an airport in Ontario, California. The Oscar was returned to the Academy, who returned it to Whoopi without cleaning it. “Oscar will never leave my house again,” Goldberg said.


When Olympia Dukakis’s Moonstruck Oscar was stolen from her home in 1989, she called the Academy to see if it could be replaced. “For $78,” they said, and she agreed that it seemed like a fair price. It was the only thing taken from the house.


“I don’t know what happened to the Oscar they gave me for On the Waterfront,” Marlon Brando wrote in his autobiography. “Somewhere in the passage of time it disappeared.” He also didn't know what happened to the Oscar that he had Sacheen Littlefeather accept for him in 1973. “The Motion Picture Academy may have sent it to me, but if it did, I don’t know where it is now.”


Jeff Bridges had just won his Oscar in 2010 for his portrayal of alcoholic country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, but it was already missing by the next year’s ceremony, where he was up for another one. He lost to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech. “It’s been in a few places since last year but I haven’t seen it for a while now,” the actor admitted. “I’m hoping it will turn up, especially now that I haven’t won a spare! But Colin deserves it. I just hope he looks after it better.” Which brings us to ...


Perhaps Jeff Bridges secretly cursed the British actor as he said those words, because Firth nearly left his new trophy on a toilet tank the very night he received it. After a night of cocktails at the Oscar after-parties in 2011, Firth allegedly had to be chased down by a bathroom attendant, who had found the eight-pound statuette in the bathroom stall. Notice we said allegedly: Shortly after those reports surfaced, Firth's rep issued a statement saying the "story is completely untrue. Though it did give us a good laugh."


When newbie writers Matt Damon and Ben Affleck took home Oscars for writing Good Will Hunting in 1998, it was one of those amazing Academy Award moments. Now, though, Damon isn’t sure where his award went. “I know it ended up at my apartment in New York, but unfortunately, we had a flood when one of the sprinklers went off when my wife and I were out of town and that was the last I saw of it,” Damon said in 2007.


In 1945, seven-year-old Margaret O’Brien was presented with a Juvenile Academy Award for being the outstanding child actress of the year. About 10 years later, the O’Briens’ maid took the award home to polish, as she had done before, but never came back to work. The missing Oscar was forgotten about when O’Brien’s mother died shortly thereafter, and when Margaret finally remembered to call the maid, the number had been disconnected. She ended up receiving a replacement from the Academy.

There’s a happy ending to this story, though. In 1995, a couple of guys were picking their way through a flea market when they happened upon the Oscar. They put it up for auction, which is when word got back to the Academy that the missing trophy had resurfaced. The guys who found the Oscar pulled it from auction and presented it, in person, to Margaret O’Brien. “I’ll never give it to anyone to polish again,” she said.


For years, Bing Crosby's Oscar for 1944’s Going My Way had been on display at his alma mater, Gonzaga University. In 1972, students walked into the school’s library to find that the 13-inch statuette had been replaced with a three-inch Mickey Mouse figurine instead. A week later, the award was found, unharmed, in the university chapel. “I wanted to make people laugh,” the anonymous thief later told the school newspaper.


Hattie McDaniel, famous for her Supporting Actress win as Mammy in Gone with the Wind, donated her Best Actress Oscar to Howard University. It was displayed in the fine arts complex for a time, but went missing sometime in the 1960s. No one seems to know exactly when or how, but there are rumors that the Oscar was unceremoniously dumped into the Potomac by students angered by racial stereotypes such as the one she portrayed in the film.

An earlier version of this post ran in 2013.

Disney/Marvel Studios
Afternoon Map
Marvel vs. DC: This Map Shows Each State’s Favorite Comic Universe
Disney/Marvel Studios
Disney/Marvel Studios

Which comic book company is the best: Marvel or DC? This is a perennial argument on middle-school playgrounds and Reddit threads, but this map, courtesy of, might just give us a definitive answer. The information here is broken down by state, using information provided by Google Trends to give us a clear winner of not only the most popular comic book company but also the most popular individual hero in each state (let’s show a little respect to Indiana for championing the Martian Manhunter).

According to the map, Marvel is the most popular publisher in 37 states, with DC trailing behind at eight, and five additional states coming to a 50/50 stalemate. The totals weren’t a blowout, though. In certain states like Mississippi, Iowa, and Pennsylvania, the favored company only won by a point. And just because a state searches Google for a specific publisher the most doesn’t mean an individual character from the opposing team isn’t its favorite—Hawaii is listed as favoring Marvel overall, yet they love Aquaman on his own. Same with DC-loving Maryland showing Black Panther some love (helps to have a big movie coming out). Take a look at some of the most notable state preferences below:

So how did Marvel amass so many states when there are just as many DC TV shows and movies out there? Well, according to Andrew Selepak, Ph.D., a professor in the department of telecommunication at the University of Florida, and director of the graduate program in social media, the answer lies in the depth at the House of Ideas.

“While Superman and Batman may be dominant characters,” Selepak said in a statement, “the DC Universe offers few other well-known heroes and villains and when these other characters are presented to the audience in film and on TV, they often are less than well-received.” This is opposed to Marvel, which launches new heroes on the big and small screen seemingly every year.

Does this map tell the whole story? That’s up for debate. When it comes to comics sold, DC and Marvel are always in a close battle: In January 2018, DC had six of the 10 best-selling comics of the month, placing four of the top five. Marvel, meanwhile, had three, while Image Comics had one with The Walking Dead. In terms of overall retail market share, though, Marvel eked out DC 34.3 percent to 33.8 percent.

This is a battle that's been raging since the 1960s, and for an industry that thrives on a never-ending fight between good and evil, we shouldn't expect the Marvel vs. DC debate to be settled anytime soon.


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