UPDATE: The owner of the theater has issued a statement to Consumerist regarding the situation:
“My family is committed to providing a secure environment for our customers and employees. Particularly in view of recent events, we have taken and will continue to take additional steps to offer all our customers a safe and pleasant moviegoing experience. We’re grateful for the patience and cooperation our customers have shown us as we’ve taken these steps.
We disagree with our customer’s account of his interaction with our staff. We respect the dignity of all of our customers without regard to their background.”
While we can understand that some movie theaters might want to bolster up security in the wake of the shootings in Colorado that left a dozen moviegoers dead, some theaters are only taking a harder look at those of us who have Y chromosomes.
Take as an example the story of Consumerist reader Mitch, who dared to carry a small, cloth bag with him into the Omaha movie theater at which he’d previously seen more than a hundred movies.
In spite of that long history with no issues at this theater, Mitch was stopped when he tried to enter last night’s preview screening of Hope Springs (because you know that bittersweet comedies about the withered marriage of a middle-aged couple is a prime target for mayhem).
The theater employee told Mitch he couldn’t come in with the bag, a small messenger bag, which Mitch says is only large enough only to hold his Nook and a handful of other things.
“I opened it up and showed him the contents,” writes Mitch, “The Nook, a few papers (including our tickets), chapstick, keys, and some hand sanitizer. That’s it. No gun, no knife, not even a sonic screwdriver.”
Puzzled by this zero-tolerance policy, Mitch asked the employee, who has seen Mitch at this theater enough times to know him by name, what exactly the problem was.
“You could be a shooter,” said the employee, according to Mitch. “We don’t know.”
The employee gave Mitch an option — leave the bag in his car, or leave the theater.
The car wasn’t really an option, as the 100-degree heat could damage his Nook, which is more important (and expensive) than a few movie tickets.
He asked the employee if he could speak to a manager. The employee then told him he is a manager.
“I ask for HIS manager, and a guy with a headset comes over,” writes Mitch, who had noticed at least a half-dozen women walk into the theater, all carrying bags of some sort.
“The situation is explained again, and I point out that women are not being stopped, but men are. I repeat the first guy’s ‘shooter’ line and the second manager agrees that yes, I could be.”
Realizing he wasn’t going to be allowed in — and that he couldn’t risk putting his Nook into the oven that was his car — Mitch handed one of the tickets to a female friend, who was able to enter with her bag going un-searched.
Before heading outside to wait for his remaining friends, Mitch took out his loyalty card and handed it over to the manager.
“I’ve seen more than a hundred movies at that theater since they opened,” he explains. “I’ve bought concessions, I’ve brought new people in, I’ve spent way too much money there, and they simply don’t want it. They don’t want me as
a customer. That’s fine. There is no shortage of theaters in the area, and no reason to support a business that openly practices discrimination.”
And it looks like Mitch wasn’t being singled out for reasons other than being a male with a bag.
While he was I sat outside waiting for his friends, every man who had walked into the theater with a bag came walking back out in under two minutes.