Arclight Employees Unite!

catphoto.jpgLook, Iíll get it out right up front; Iím a cheap bastard. By necessity. Iím poor, so Iím cheap. I like to spend money with the best of them when I have it, but when I donít, Iíll juice a penny. Iím the guy who upon reading about the parking meter scam run by downtown homeless thinks, ìhmm, not a bad idea.î So every time I find myself at the Arclight theater on a Friday night, I wonder two things: 1) why do the tickets cost three dollars more on the weekend and 2) is this really worth fourteen bucks?

I know, I know. Itís the best theater in Los Angeles, maybe the world. But with national ticket prices middling at $6.21, is fourteen dollars reasonable? An offhand comment made last Friday by the twenty-something woman selling me the tickets for Lords of Dogtown cast further doubt:

ìIf we didnít get to see movies for free, we couldnít afford to see them at all.î

Itís obvious when you think about it, but hearing it said out loud, it sounded absurd. Working full-time at a movie theater and unable to afford the price of admission?! Itís true, with the exception of the bartenders and wait staff in the Arclight cafÈ (who also, BTW, see the movies for free), your run-of-the-mill Arclight employee with regular expenses like rent, transportation, and food cannot afford to see movies at the theater by which he or she is employed.

While rethinking whether or not I could afford to see movies there, I sarcastically suggested unionization to which the woman replied with a stone-cold, straight face that the attempt had been made and that the people who orchestrated it no longer worked there. The insinuation was that they had been terminated for attempting to organize.

“So what?” after the jump…

From one perspective, who cares if Arclight employees donít make enough to see a movie at the theater where they work? There are plenty of waiters, waitresses, and bartenders in Los Angeles who canít afford to eat or drink at their places of employment, but thereís a difference. If you work at an expensive dining establishment with a reputation for luxury, youíre likely earning a premium in gratuities, not so at a movie theater. Also, letís examine the product. Arenít movies supposed to be entertainment for the masses? Like sweatshop workers, Arclight employees canít afford the very product they sell. But this isnít designer clothing or tennis shoes; itís a fricking movie! And donít tell me itís a premium paid for a quality venue. With the exception of the Vista, where else can you see a movie after dark for less than a ten spot in LA? The higher cost of living? The masses for whom these movies are made make as little in Los Angeles as they do anywhere else. Case in point.

Beyond the possibility that box office is down because expensive venues are driving a large portion of the population to their televisions and DVD players, the unpleasant externality is one of decreased community, an insulation of certain socio-economic levels and thereby, ethnic groups. What happens to the sense of commonality? The sense that we are as human beings, on some level, the same? Instead of the communal excitement affirming our similarities when the theater dims and the projector starts, all us poor people are at home, disenfranchised, sitting in front of a flickering loneliness box, considering our differences. And getting angry.

14 Replies to “Arclight Employees Unite!”

  1. Hey why are you trying to rock the boat? If 14 dollars keeps away the rowdy noisy teen crowds found at most cineplexes on the weekends I’m all for it. Yes, “It’s a fricking movie” – and to some people they are something very important and it matters how they see them. If it doesn’t matter to you there is a place a few blocks up on Hollywood Blvd where you can see a double feature for like 5 bucks. Leave the rest of us alone.

  2. How much is a movie at the Chinese, the Universal City theaters, or the Grove AMC? On weekends those get pretty close to $14 don’t they?

    I’m all for mobilization of the work-force, but won’t that just raise ticket prices for the rest of us? As fringe benefits go, free movies at the best theater in the world is a pretty damn good one.

  3. I’ve had lotss of jobs where I couldn’t afford what I sold–Gumps, David Orgell, and Barneys. So what? Matt–get a better job and you, too, can afford to go to Arclight.
    And if you think all poor people are people of color–well, you didn’t see Kung Fu Hustle, did you? Lots of Asians at the Arclight–gee, did they get in on some affirmative action pass?

  4. If you want to be upset at a company for not paying it’s employees enough to patronize their own establishment, read up on Wal-Mart. That’s a sorry situation with global economic ramifications.

    Have you looked up what ticket prices are in NY? I’m willing to bet it’s the same story. It’s more of a supply and demand issue than anything. As you point out, it’s not just the Arclight. The Grove is $12.50 at times (in fact, more expensive than the Arclight during the day on a weekend). It’s part of the increased cost of living in a large metropolitan area.

  5. Matt,

    I will have to respectfully disagree with many of your points. Probably in a separate entry to come on my site.

  6. Wow – yer getting hammered for this one. Unfortunately, I’ll have to agree that unionizing theatre workers is not the answer. These people aren’t abused – they know what job they’re getting when they sign up. If you’re really opposed to the Arclight’s rates, stop going. I think the extra couple bucks is worth the guaranteed seats, no kids, no ads, and an awesome movie going experience.
    And if I had to work minimum wage at any movioe theatre, I’d pick the Arclight.

  7. Speaking as someone who currently works at ArcLight (note the capitol A and L) and as the second in line to orchestrate the unionization attempt…shoot, I don’t know were I’m going with that sentence.

    So what if we can’t afford to go to the movie theatre we work at? Most people in similar situations like us can’t afford to go a non-matinee movie in this town anyways. They do treat us alright, as far as the regular menial worker goes. We get one dollar above minimum wage and enough hours to survive. The unionization wasn’t about getting more money for slinging popcorn and walking up and down stadium seating steps. They like to have us “flourish,” which involves taking on extra responsibilities. At the average movie theatre managers will schedule showtimes, crew, run events, do hiring, train crew, do maintanence, and so on. At ArcLight, the crew does all of it and the management does…well…no one really knows. We were more concerned with appropriate pay for the extra work. Our main unionization person was fired temporarily, then returned when management realized it wouldn’t be a good idea. Eh, it’s all so complicated and not necessary for this type of post.

    We have it better in that we make one dollar more than minimum wage where, I dunno, all other movie theatres start at minimum wage. We get four free tickets a day (excluding weekends) and some other nice perks. El Capitan employees don’t get in for free at their own theatre, and they ration the soda for some reason. We can still go pay for movies at other places, and I don’t think it’s that nuts to hear that we can’t afford the luxury theatre. But then again, we’re the only theatre that’s not unionized.

  8. I’ve talked to a few ArcLight employees and they all had good things to say about the company and I’m happy to pay the extra few bucks to avoide the commercials and screaming kids. I love ArcLight.

  9. Excluding people through econonic strategies is such a staple in our capitalist system that challenging seem idiotic to those with narrow mindsets. I am not any marxist soldier; just a simple skeptic.

    Societies are most vibrant and progressive when they interact the most with their members. Taken to their limits, alienation leads to ?separatist?/racism/?classims? and to genocide.

    I know it is “just” a flick.. but it just sound ugly to use price to discriminate “undesirable” people.

  10. genocide? wow.

    the fact is, we live in a capitalist society and there will always be strata based on price– always.

    there’s always the option of going to the hollywood bowl, where at least the people in the $1 seats up top can walk down and mingle with the folks in the $200+ boxes down in front.

    like everyone else, I’d rather take my economic earning power (read: ability to pay the $14 ticket price) and apply it to get a better experience (a more upscale audience, reserved seats, ushers, better theater, nicer snacks, etc.). I don’t think I’m doing it at the “cost” of anyone else; the flip side of this situation– and what makes our fantastic country so great– is that opportunity abounds for everyone…

  11. I have to respectfully disagree with Unsomnambulist. Just because employees “know what they’re getting into” doesn’t make their drive for better wages, benefits, and working conditions any less important or deserving of public support.

    If Arclight employees were indeed fired for attempting to unionize, that’s a violation of their right to organize under the National Labor Relations Act. Not that the NLRB will do anything about it these days, even if someone told them about it.

    With the cost of living (housing, food, you name it) rising in Los Angeles, I think the city is sorely deficient in fun things to do after hours for those of us who aren’t interested/willing to pay $7 for a beer at some swanky bar.

  12. I’d say the Arclight employees could do with a substantial pay raise.

    If non-Arclight employees/Arclight viewers in L.A. really feel strongly about it, then they can apply external pressure (say via various blog posts, email campaigns, press releases, etc) to Arclight owners, operators, and management to make that happen (I know if I was involved in running that theatre, I would pay attention!) Management usually responds to the direct or indirect demands from the marketplace.

    Vieweres are paying for a premium experience at Arclight and the employees there are providing arguably “premium” service for less than “premium” theatre-worker pay. I doubt Arclight owners/management would would feel too gutsy about shortchanging employees once a buzz was to manifest :)

  13. Not the best theater in the world. The best in the world IMHO is in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s the size of a regular theater, but the seating consists of about 40 red velvet Lazyboys. They’re set up in pairs with a champagne bucket between embedded in a little table between them. You can buy alcoholic beverages in the cushy lobby/lounge, and carry them into the theater. The price of admission is many times that of a regular Thai theater: a whopping $6.25 — but we’re talking 5-star treatment here.

    That’s what we need in L.A. — more cinema bars.

  14. Have you ever asked a theatre employee how much they make an hour?

    If you do, you would find the #’s ranging from $6 an hour…all the way to $9…depending on LOCATION and HOW LONG the person has worked there.

    Most people dont work there long enough to be making more than $7.50 an hour.

    Theatre prices go up every year because DVD and all this new TV junk has taken 7% of the sales away.

    Even Loews Entertainment and AMC have realized that and have MERGED. Amazing huh…the 2nd and 3rd largest theatre chains have merged due to the fall down .

    Also if the weekend prices scare you. Why dont you try the weekdays…(i know morning prices are low). Or go to a less expessive theatre. I know a lot of people go to certain theatres over price differences, even if its with the same company.

    You should check out: http://20below.mainetoday.com/views/opinion/movies020327.shtml

    All I can say is, theatre employees hear this everyday… (literally)

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