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Holidays bring movie theater surge

With every new holiday season comes the promise of holiday crowds. The National Retail Federation expects Americans to spend over $700 billion this holiday season. But retail stores aren’t the only businesses that experience a rapid uptick in sales as soon as the Christmas decorations go up. Endless lines of eager customers can also be found at almost every movie theater box office in the country.

With expected high-grossing movies like “Bumblebee,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Aquaman” scheduled to premiere later this month, movie theater companies are already prepping for the crowds. Allen Theatres Inc., a movie theater chain based in New Mexico, is all too familiar with this hectic holiday trend.

The Allen Theatres ticket window at Cineport 10 in Las Cruces is adorned with holiday lights. Several major studio releases are timed to coincide with this year’s nationwide holiday box office surge. (Photo by Kokopelli Staff)

“Our busiest week of the year is from Christmas to New Years,” said Russell Allen, vice president of operations at Allen Theatres Inc. “It’s been that way for years. Historically, the film companies have released all the big pictures when schools are going to be out, so the holidays and summer is when we have the significant uptick.”

Allen Theatres Inc. opened its first theater in Farmington in 1912 and has since become a popular business chain. With theaters spread out among ten different cities in the state — as well as one in Colorado and two in Arizona — and around 200 part-time employees working at the theaters in the city of Las Cruces alone, the company is well-equipped to handle the holiday crowds. According to one Allen Theatres employee, a single showtime can bring in 600 or more customers all at once.

“The number of people that we get during a weekend showtime alone is around [six hundred],” said Ethan Gregory, an employee at the Telshor 12 in Las Cruces, “but during the holidays, especially around Christmas, that can be the normal number per showtime almost every day. Just to give you an idea, we have more than four showtimes a day, so if you add up the number of people we serve, sell tickets to and clean up after during a single shift, it’s kind of insane.”

Theater employees and managers, most of whom are either in high school or college, are all required to work either Thanksgiving or Christmas day, and aside from dealing with the large crowds, one Las Cruces theater manager indicated that not every customer is always in the holiday spirit during these shifts, making the employees’ jobs that much more difficult.

“The biggest challenge as a manager at the movie theaters is having to make the best possible experience for everyone,” Cassidy Luna said. “We are told to give the best experience to every customer that comes in, but it’s hard when the customers come in with an aggressive attitude and treat my employees unfairly. It’s especially frustrating when we have to deal with this during the holidays when you’re supposed to be your most caring.”

Although a large crowd is enough to dampen anyone’s mood, long-time former manager, current employee and NMSU alumnus Alex Dawson provided some tips on how to beat the wave of customers here in Las Cruces.

“If you’re going to the Telshor 12, buy your tickets early or online so that you can have whatever seat you want,” Dawson said. “So many times, people come up five minutes before a movie starts and are surprised that there are only seats left in the front row. If you’re going to the Cineport 10, get there early since there isn’t reserved seating and it’s first come first serve. Most importantly, if you’re getting concession items, know what you want before you get to the counter.”

According to Allen Theatres Director of Operations Kara Young, customers who brave the crowds this holiday season can expect a few perks including promotional cups for the new “Bumblebee” movie. The company will also be selling gift cards to customers, which can be used toward purchasing tickets and concession items. The company will also continue to sell all movie tickets for five dollars on Tuesdays.

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