A Look at Movie Theater (Non-)Cleanliness

Disgusting Movie Theaters

There is very little doubt in my mind that while reading the title of this article you're either nodding in agreement or shaking your head in disgust, as you recall a repulsive memory about a cleanliness issue at your favorite multiplex.

Every person in the world who has ever frequented a movie theater - be it a small "mom and pop" theater or one of those super-mega-multi-screen complexes - has at one point viewed a film in a less-than-clean environment.

Sticky floors that feel like you're walking on fly paper, smelly, musky air, gum on the armrest or bathrooms reminiscent of a Greyhound bus station - these are just some of the sanitation issues plaguing modern day moviegoers.

I know what you're thinking (I'm psychic), "Paul, don't be hard on theater chains. Not every theater is that way."

To that I say, "Nope, you are wrong!" Most (if not every) theater in America, and most likely the world, has similar problems. As long as humans continue to watch films in theaters the problem will likely never be resolved - in fact, I think the problem may be getting worse.


Bed Bugs

Disgusting Movie Theaters Bed Bugs

For example, take the recent story on CNN about an AMC movie theater in New York City that was shutdown and fumigated for bed bugs. Says CNN in its report:

"The AMC Empire 25 movie theater closed Tuesday night for extermination and reopened Wednesday."

I know what you are thinking (I'm psychic remember?), "Paul, that is only one theater." Again, you would be wrong. CNN goes on to report:

"The bloodsucking pests were found at another New York AMC location, the Magic Johnson Harlem 9, on July 30."

That's two major theater locations (which are owned by a major movie theater company) and the sanitation issues are so bad that the seats have bed bugs! I'm thinking that AMC should incorporate the same type of rule that hotels have for swimming in their pools - shower before entering. The infestations make me wonder: what else could be lurking in those seats?



Disgusting Movie Theaters Lice

I found several instances, over the past few years, where news agencies found more horror on movie theater seats than they did on the screen. If there can be bed bugs on the armrests and seat pans, then why couldn't there be lice on the headrests?

Answer: there CAN be lice on the headrests. I'll let that sink in for a moment - as you start to feel your skin crawl.

While there hasn't been a well-publicized report of someone getting lice from a movie theater seat in the past ten years, according to a report on lice by the North Dakota Department of Health:

Sharing coat hooks, lockers, car/bus/airplane and MOVIE THEATER SEATS also provides ideal situations for the transmission of head lice.

Maybe I'm overly-alarmed about Lice, considering there hasn't been a major incident in quite a few years. I don't want to be that "sky is falling" guy, but I may start bringing my own headrest cover to theaters from now on.


Fecal Matter

Disgusting Movie Theaters Bathroom

Back in 2008, KLTV News in East Texas ran a special report on theater seats in their area, and the findings - while disturbing - where equally unsurprising. Everyone has probably watched a similar report, where an independent lab swabs several public areas to see what disgusting bacteria they can find.

What was the number one contaminant found in KLTV's theater seat study? FECAL MATTER! That's right, the movie you are watching isn't the only crappy thing in your favorite theater. Microbiologist Dr. Richard Wallace, with UT Health Science Center, spoke to KLTV:

"You never know what's hiding underneath or what's hiding on top of those seats. What I expected was skin organisms, the typical type of staph species things and those were almost universal in all the samples. You expect that because of people laying their hands on the seats. What I didn't expect were what we call stool organisms or fecal organisms."

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