The incorrect way to become a movie projectionist.

I bet any computer person in the world has thought about leaving their field.

I know I did, several times as a matter of fact – in my professional career with computers and networking.

So then I thought, “This is it? What comes next?” What do I love? Art, Movies…hmmm. I’ve always loved movies and American Cinema. Who hasn’t had the pipedream of becoming a director or screenwriter? I guess I’ve always been a creative person – wanting to draw and paint as a child. Then through adulthood I decided to mingle with computers. Low and behold, I was introduced to Photoshop. My creative nature and artistic sense of design has carried forth into the computer age now. Personally I haven’t actually painted or drawn anything in years, except for some of the tee shirt screenprints at KaptainMyke.com.

Nobody really gets rich selling tee shirts. Trust me, I know. Even as I watch the big dogs and competitors who are way up there above us at KaptainMyke aren’t getting that rich, either. That’s just another level! I am a business man, and always have been. In thinking with that simple logic of business and economics, even those guys have bills and expenses. They are just really larger bills and expenses! What about the bottom line profit, at the end of a fiscal legitimate tax year? We’ve done our homework, and talked to insiders as well. This makes
for proud justification in stating the simple fact nobody gets rich in selling tee shirts. Any luxury item you sell isn’t going to sell as great as a major commodity such as gasoline or toilet paper.

With all that stated, I decided, “Hey! When I grow up, I want to be a movie projectionist part time!” Why not? I love movies, and I love cold, cool air conditioning (for health reasons). What better job other than a butcher in a meat freezer would be fun and exciting? I’ve always wanted to know what it was like in a movie theater projection room. Most people don’t know what it’s like. I know I didn’t. Do you? Maybe even one day I could own a movie theater of my own!

I started combing the movie theaters in the area. My wife and I have the ONLY place in town we go to for movies: The Alama Drafthouse Cinema! We only would go to the Alama Drafthouse off Mason Rd in Katy, or we’d go to the Alamo Drafthouse in West Oaks Mall – Houston. What better place to go work? I LOVE their Alamo Burgers and Rogue Drafts on tap.

Last year alone, for 2007 my wife and I visited the Alamo several times, even seeing some movies twice. I visited the website and applied at both locations that were close to our home. There was an open projectist position on the West Oaks Alamo Drafthouse website! Awesome! I sent in my resume with the subject “Projectionist” as instructed on the website.

2 Weeks Later…

Nothing. So I check the website and the position is gone. All that is left is ticket booth, and food runners. Pfft. I send another email again, this time trying one more time, but with a subject “Ticket Booth Position” in the header.

A response! May 22, 2008

“Thank you for your resume! I would like to set up a time for
you to come in for an interview so that we can talk about the positions that may be available to you at the Alamo. Do you have time to come in this week?

NAME WITHDRAWN, Manager
Alamo Drafthouse West Oaks”

To which I replied: May 22, 2008

“That sounds great! I’d love to be trained on how to use the
projection machines if that were possible. Maybe do something else and get cross trained, I don’t know.

I can come in anytime.
-Mike”

24 Hours later: May 23, 2008

“ok, i work tomorrow night as well as Sunday. Can you come in around 5 PM on one of those days? If so, just stop on in and ask for me. You’ll need to fill out an application when you get here. Thanks.”

I was excited! The wheels are in motion. I am totally about to be a projectionist! On Sunday evening, May 25, 2008 I went in to talk to her. I greeted the manager of the Alamo Drafthouse and we made small talk. She asked me to wait a few minutes, so I did. I waited by the ticket booth for almost an hour.

Finally we talked and I told her I wanted to be a projectionist. She had went and shown my resume to the Projectionist Manager and he thought with my computer experience I would be a great candidate. Usually, you have to have experience in the movie projection room to be a projectionist. Of course, right? Otherwise you just magically obtain zenlike powers and absorb the knowledge of being a projectionist and have experience naturally. Something called “Spontaneous Projectionism”. Yeah, I heard about that on Sci-Fi channel!

Seriously, I was excited and the store manager told me to come back on Thursday to speak with the Projectionist Manager. She indicated he’d take me up there to the room where all the projection machines are and show me around. I was jumping out of my skin I was so excited! Things are happening! Awesome!!!

A few days pass…

Long story short? The projectionist manager seemed like he wanted to hire me. He showed me around the entire upper movie projection room. He showed me how to run the film through the machines, the dolby sound equipment, the film cans, the movie posters, the rolling film carts, the platters, spindles, reels, rods, screens, switches, hitches, and everything! Except how to fuse together several pieces of film into one big film. We didn’t get to that part. I absorb things pretty
quickly, and what he was showing me seemed so up my alley. He further indicated to me there weren’t a whole lot of projectionist on staff, mostly part timers. He’d been doing this for over 6-8 years I think he told me. I went back downstairs with him and we talked to the store manager again. She asked him right away if I had any experience, and he said know, but he thought we could work something out.

The store manager excused me and the two talked a few minutes. She returned and stated I could come back for training in a few days. She handed me an employee workbook and asked if I felt comfortable being a food runner for 2 weeks. I said I didn’t really want to, but if that would help me cross train then okay. She told me it was an excellent way for employees to learn the store and the theaters. We exchanged small talk and made our exits. I politely left, very
excited.

I went through 3 days of training…learned the menu, took a few tests. I passed all tests except the menu parts. The store manager graded my tests and told me where I was wrong on some answers, just not marking them wrong. She handed me a menu and said I should look over things one more time. So she walked away and I started blatently filling in the test with the menu. Other employees were behind the bar, eating, watching, smiling. Everyone was nice, cordual with me, etc. I was writing this stuff down with the menus, and nobody cared.

Okay then! I turned it back over to the manager and I passed! Come in Friday 6pm, here’s 2 shirts! She handed me two Alamo Drafthouse Cinema tee shirts, size medium. We’ll have you be a food runner and try it out! Awesome!

I stuck around afterwards at the bar and orderd my first comped Alamo burger and Rogue chocolate draft. I started watching the employees more carefully. The drink runners were getting small plastic sample cups of drafts passed secretly by the bartender on duty. One or two of them were totally hammered slamming down who knows how many sample drafts. Then, on that particular night, I was introduced to the entire general manager of the store earlier. I noticed her sneaking around and grabbing herself a glass a wine behind the bar! I started
rubbing my eyes and looking at my beer by that point. She casually walks around the bar, and right up front behind the ticket booth with her glass of wine! Customers were paying for their tickets as she set her wine glass down. I found this very intriguing, actually. As I was eating my food, I had been talking to other employees, saying hello and whatnot. One had told me that “You paid for that? Oh, you’ll learn around here how to eat on the go for free.” etc.

Okay then! I finished my beer and burger, returning home. I already felt this was only the beginning…

The big day came. I had my shirt on, I clocked in with my employee number, I was ready to go! The manager said hello again, and helped me get started with where I’d go and showed me around with a group, as before with some others. When it was over, and I was supposed to start, she practically disappeared before I could ask her about the projectionist manager. She told me, “He’s not working tonight, and I’ve been trying to text him today and yesterday”.
I continued on and ran food that night with another employee who had been there for 2 weeks.
He was my trainer. However, I learned later on in the night he’d been in the restuarant business for many years. He’d ran food, he’d been an expo, etc. So it was great having him alongside and helping me learn the ropes. Oh, and by the way? I saw the projectionist manager working that night. He was hanging out talking with the drink runners up front. I didn’t even stop to talk or ask him anything. I tried smiling earlier to gain acknowledgement or recognition…but nothing. Just a blank smile as I was no one. I continued and followed my trainer.

The kitchen was crazy! I never been in a restaurant environment in my life! You’re looking at a 100% pale, indoors computer guy, 10 years. You kidding me? I couldn’t take the 200 degree heat, the yelling, the spitifre of an expo, everything sucked for me. Under no fault of anybody else’s but my own, trust me, I know. I wasn’t used to it, that’s all. The expo was a short, red haired little spitfire is all I can say. She did her job, and she did it well, but don’t step in her way. I don’t have anything bad to say about any of these employees doing their hardearned jobs, that’s for sure. Hats off to all of you busting your ass like that – because I…can’t…do…it! Haha. Plain and simple, that line of work is only for certain people. Whew! As I ran food the first showing was of LOST on ABC. LOST fans get together and watch it up at the Alamo. Okay. Well guess who I saw in the crowd? My manager, the lady who gave me empty promises and dreams. I wanted to say something, but I was working and so taken by this I just didn’t bother at this point in the game at only 7-8pm in the evening on my first official day.

8 Hours Later…

I got home that night at 3am, because we live an hour away, and of course it was the “Sex and the City” movie premiere that night…at midnight. SO from midnight to 2am I had to deal with slightly buzzed and hungry women all night. Lordy! Of course I wanted to quit by 9pm and counted every minute as it passed by. I didn’t get to eat until 9pm!

Which reminds me…I learned how you eat on the run for free at the Alamo as a food runner employee. You take it off the food rack where the warming lights are. There was an entire row of uneaten, double ordered food. Look at all this wasted food! If the corporate types in Austin knew of this stuff going on around here…man! Whew! Again, as a businessman, I saw money wasted. Also, I was bringing back dirty plates from the theater and immediately picking up someone’s new order and running it back out to them. Their motto as a food runner is , “Do not return empty handed to the kitchen” Made sense. But when your being rushed by others to be un-named you can’t just stop everytime to wash your hands, right? Nobody else was, how could I? All night I washed my hands three times. When I got there, and when I used the restroom mid shift, and when I got home. Nevermind the salsa, nacho cheese, beer, wine, popcorn butter and God knows what else that I was wiping on my shirt or a nearby rag. When closing time came,
last call, cleaning the kitchen was a little absurd to me as well. I was using rags I didn’t know where they came from, using tubs of what I thought was soap, etc. Only once somebody told me where to go get more rags. After that I felt more comfortable sloshing around the same food particles in a circular motion.

What was deemed as the worst experience in my entire life I will never forget ever.

I called the manager the next day and I told her honestly I didn’t think food running was for me. The kitchen being too hot, the constant fast paced environment, etc. She said she was still having a hard time texting the projectionist manager. She said she’d call me.

I already knew where this was going. 3 Days later…same results. So, if you can’t text or reach an employee, isn’t that insubordination of your superior? Interesting. I’m way smarter than that, lady.

Anyways, I estimated after 3 days of 2 hour training at minimum wage ($4.35) = $26.10. She said as a food runner I was at $9.50/hr. So add that night of hell for me 8hrs @ $9.50/hr you get = $76 approximately. Add $76 and $26 and my paycheck before taxes should be around $102 gross. After taxes it’d probably be an $80 check.

2 Weeks pass. Where’s my check?

I sent her an email. She asked if I wanted the check mailed or if I wanted to come up there. My truck is horrible on gas mileage. We live an hour away. This $80 check is a gas tank! So I replied by email to just mail it to me. She responded and said okay.

I get a phone call from her, the store manager. She said she can’t fit any hours in for me as a projectionist. Some partimers decided to go full time. Yeah, right…. I asked her about the 2 Alamo Shirts. She said “Hold onto ’em”, exactly. Okay.

On Tue, Jun 17, 2008 at 2:40 PM, I wrote:

Still no check.

Thanks
-Mike

4 days later…

On Sat, Jun 21, 2008 at 6:06 PM, I wrote again:

Still, no check.

-Mike.

Good thing I’m not pushy! Most people when it involves money would be PISSED by now, right? I know I felt that way but wanted to be polite and professional.

3 Days Later….

This is the 4th and last time I’m going to ask you for my check in a 2 week period. I will have to start asking other higher management types through the company after today, FIRSTNAME WITHDRAWN.

-Mike

1 Day later…

Please mail me my paycheck! -Mike

June 25th, 2008:

Hello Mike,

Yesterday was the first time I heard of your paycheck issue. I will be contacting our corporate accountant to get your check to you ASAP. I understand your urgency to get your check and I will do everything I can to expedite the process. I will send you an email to let you know when it gets in the mail.

NAME WITHDRAWN
General Manager
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
1000 West Oaks Mall #429
Houston, TX 77082

Finally! Jesus. First time huh? Nice communication skills there. This is the same main general manager that was sipping the wine glass, no less. Finally replying, huh? Well thank you very much.

The assistant manager below her, the one that originally promised me all these hopes and dreams? Remember her? She replies finally now, after 3-4 weeks….

I did not realize that you had not received your check as of yet. When I came in on Tuesday, it was no longer in the piles we keep in the safe and I assumed it had been received. I have been out of the office and had not checked my e-mails, so the message you sent yesterday was the next time I had heard from you. After speaking with our (General Manager), I am sending an e-mail to our corporate accountant and she will be able to reissue a check to you. I will be happy to copy you on the e-mail, or if you prefer you can contact her yourself. Let me know what you want to do.

I replied to her:

I will wait for you to talk to the accountant again.

Thanks,
-Mike

 

Yeah, I better not hold my breath, huh?

JULY 7, 2008: TWO WEEKS LATER FROM EVEN THAT:

I realize this took way longer than it should have, but I put your
check

in the mail today. Sorry for the inconvenience.

NAME WITHDRAWN

General Manager

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

1000 West Oaks Mall #429

Houston, TX 77082

Are you kidding me? Whatever….

So finally, the big day comes! In a handwritten envelope, I got my Alamo Drafthouse Check finally!

No FICA, No SSN, nothing. A corporate check in the amount of: $41.33. says in the memo field, “5/29 Pay”. That’s slavery!

I bet what they think they did is make me pay for those 2 shirts. You are given 2 shirts during training. Any other subsequent shirts you have to pay for. By law, you have to pay me what I’m entitled to, right? Gas, time, etc. I could have been on other job interviews or masterbating or something! What a waste of time!

So now, my wife and I will never, EVER eat or step foot in an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema ever again. Why would you want to?

I wonder if the general manager and the store manager remember me as much as I will always remember them?

-Mike “KaptainMyke” Sorensen.

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