(Why… and How?) Confessions of a Movie Hopper

Why… and How? Confessions of a Movie Hopper
by Bret Dorman

Before I get into the Why and How, let me first describe the What.

What is Movie Hopping?

It’s when you go see one movie, then sneak into another theater showing another movie. Rinse. Repeat.

Here are the Movie Hopping levels I have encountered so far:

1) A Movie
2) Double Feature
3) Hat Trick
4) Quad
5) Cinco
6) Beast

I think at a normal theater on a normal day you could reach no more than 7. But even that would take short movies and perfect timing. A Beast is more than enough for one day, and I usually try to hit at least A Hat Trick or A Quad.


The second most popular question I get asked when I let people know of my movie viewing habits is Why? Why would you want to sit through that many movies?

As I’ve somewhat stated before, seeing a movie is therapeutic. When I have to work close to 40 hours a week, write reviews, play/perform improv, and just plain hang out with friends, I get a certain level of anxiety. Its not really anxiety per se, I don’t know the best way to describe it… It’s kind of like I feel as though I am an introvert, but I know how to be (and am good at being) an extrovert. But to be around others or do ‘work’ it takes energy. I feel as though I am not alone in this… that everyone uses energy (both physical and mental) and one of the great pleasures in life is the one that replenishes that energy.

For some people this is dancing in a club. I don’t like to dance. Everyone says “You’re just worried people are watching you. Don’t worry what other people think! Just DANCE!!!” I’m sorry. It’s not that I am worried I look stupid (which I’m sure I do), but its just that I don’t get pleasure from moving my body around to loud music while surrounded by a bunch of strangers.

For some people re-energizing comes from watching sports games. Or reading a book. Or taking a bath. Or gardening. Or traveling. I say whatever it is that you do, find ways to do it as much as possible. That makes sense right?

So that is why I spend all day at the theater on my ‘theater days’. Here are some of my records:

Cineplex (1 person): 6 movies/12ish hours
Cineplex (2 people): 3 movies/6 hours
Cineplex (3+ people): 2 movies/4 hours
Indie Theatre (non special event): 1 movie.
Indie Theatre (Sci Fi Spectacular): 7 movies/14 hours
Indie Theater (Horror Movie Massacre) 13? movies/25ish hours
Home (Arnold Schwarzenegger Marathon): 34 hours

It was originally just supposed to be the ones in big print... but when you're on a roll you're on a roll...

I won’t try to defend myself on the ethics of whether or not I am stealing these movies. You’ll note that at Indie Theaters I only go to see one movie unless I am paying for a special event that is a double feature or more. If I had money to pay for tickets for all the movies I see, I would. But I don’t. I don’t spend all day at the movies strictly based on financial reasons, but that’s why I don’t keep returning to the Box Office inbetween the movies.

What I am doing is wrong. There’s no doubt about it. Its just as bad as downloading a movie. I’m not going to say I don’t care. But I will say for movies I love, I will go back specifically just to see ‘A Movie’ viewing of that movie (Last year the only ‘A Movie’ I saw solo was Black Swan, after already having seen it twice). And I will promote it on Facebook and try to get others to see it.

I do it because I am obsessed with movies and want to absorb as many of them as I can. I do it because I hate when someone else has seen something and I haven’t. I also do it because it’s so damn easy…


The most Popular question I get asked: How do I do it?These are the four basic Principals I follow when Movie Hopping:

1) I go to the movies alone. Unless its a comedy I know I MUST see with others, I like going to the movies alone. At first I felt weird, but now I don’t. I’m used to it. In fact, one could argue that as long as there are other people in the theater, I am not watching it alone, I am just not sitting directly next to someone else. The power of movies is that they can unite strangers and make them feel the same emotions and have a cinematic experience together. We all enter strangers… but leave friends…

Of course this is all just goofy talk. As I mentioned before I do feel ‘anxious’ when I am out with people so seeing every movie with other people would sort of defeat the purpose. Besides you aren’t supposed to talk during the movie anyway.

The other reason is purely technical. You’ll notice above the amount of movies I’ve seen with others maxes out at Hat Trick. This is because other people don’t find watching as many movies in a theater as enjoyable as me. Other people don’t like the same movies I go see (and yes I see some crappy movies just because they fill in the time between two others. I call these movies Bridge Movies). And lastly its easier for one person to spend the day unnoticed as opposed to four.

A page from my notebook

2) Know your stuff. Know what movies you want to see. Know how long they are. Know what order you are going to see them in. All this should be basic knowledge. But if you are lucky, like me, you can go one step further. Know what theater they are playing in.

At the theater I go to, they have those electronic kiosks outside next to the Box Office. Most people just choose to go to the B.O. but these kiosks may be more helpful than you know. The ones at my theater will let you pick the movie and time… then actually show you what theater they are playing in.

Instead of leaving Movie A knowing Movie B is next and what time it starts, walking around looking at the theaters for the correct hook up, I instead leave Movie A knowing Movie B is playing in Theater 6. No guessing or wandering around. If you’re theater is like mine the Theaters are split (unsymmetrically I might add) with Theaters 1-X on the left, Lobby/Guest Services/Snacks in the middle and Theaters Y-Z on the right. So how do you cross the Lobby? Well knowing what theater your movie is in helps with

3) Confidence. I have literally walked across the Lobby right next to an employee the whole time from one side to another. I have literally followed behind one employee in the hall, crossed the Lobby, entered the theater behind them as they went in to clean it as it had just gotten out from its previous showing, and sat down while they swept up. Its just about confidence. Normally when I cross I use my phone to avoid any direct eye contact and pretend to text, but I don’t look around nervously. In fact I make sure to look around a scope the area once, but do so like I know what I am doing. Also, if the Movie Hop requires a Lobby Cross, I usually go to the bathroom once reaching the other side. This would, I am assuming, diffuse most suspicions or make it awkward to approach me about it. But…

4) Most Movie theater Employees just don’t care. They are getting paid minimum wage or not much higher. As long as I don’t cause a ruckus or complain the popcorn isn’t fresh enough or that the projector isn’t set to the proper settings, they probably wouldn’t care even if I went up and told them I had just seen a movie and planned to see another. Also, not to get into it or ‘justify it’, but theaters make most their money off concessions anyway. I usually sneak in my own drinks and snacks, but every once in a while buy some popcorn because when I’m at the movies sometimes I want popcorn.

That’s about it. Know your stuff and confidence. That’s what you can do. I have never been caught or kicked out. In fact… here is a fun little story about just how ridiculously ‘easy’ Movie Hopping is and how keeping your cool and being confident can get you in… even when they are checking tickets at the door of the specific theater…

It was Valentine’s Day weekend and The Wolfman had just come out. Due to times, this would be the last movie I would see of the night. Well unbeknownst to me, the theater decided it would start checking tickets for popular movies on their opening weekends at the door for that specific movie at its own theater’s individual entrance. Probably to prevent people from sneaking in. (Side Note: I’m almost positive they’ve since stopped doing this.)

I saw they were doing this before I actually got to the door and quickly narrowed my options to 3 choices. I could play it safe and skip it all together, but where’s the fun in that? I could go to the B.O. and pay for a ticket, but I knew I was probably going to be disappointed in the movie and didn’t want to pay for it regardless. Or I could try to sneak in.

I turned around and went to the Lobby and bought some popcorn. I was hungry anyway and thought The Wolfman would be a good flick to enjoy popcorn during. Next, I walked over to the theater and went to walk right by the doorman as if he weren’t there. I mean, I had just spent all day not having my ticket(s) checked so it seemed reasonable that I wouldn’t necessarily assume that’s what he was doing. He was a young kid, maybe 16, first job kind of deal.

“Excuse me, your ticket. Hey, ticket?” he asked. I played dumb, “Oh… what?” But he wouldn’t have any of it. “Your ticket, I need to see it.” “Oh… um…”

At this point I put into plan my carefully constructed alibi I had worked on waiting in line at the Lobby.

“My girlfriend has them. She went in ahead of me… I got the popcorn…” to which I raised the bag of popcorn in my hand ever so slightly.

“Sorry man, I need the ticket.”

“Well, my phone is dead…” I got my phone out of my pocket and opened it… I had already turned it off while constructing the alibi in line… just in case… “So…”

“Sorry man, I need the ticket.”

“Well can I just go in, get the ticket, and come back out and show you?” An obvious ruse…

“Sorry man, I need the ticket.”

“Well what do you want me to do? I don’t have it.”

“I can call a manager if you want.”

Shit. Now I am in trouble . I figured Principal 4… the lack of employee care, would have kicked in by now. Why wouldn’t this kid just let me in? I was one person without a ticket and some pretty good alibis. I mean… come on! I didn’t want to have to call a manger, but Principal 3, confidence is key. So without hesitation I replied

“Yeah sure.”

He didn’t seem too happy and slowly got out his walkie talkie. Before he could make the call a bigger, (somewhat) older woman came out from a door past him and went to walk by him. He stopped her and sort of quickly explained the situation.

She didn’t seem to happy but told me “Come on” and escorted me down into the theater. We got to the end of the hallway and looked into the crowded theater. I paused. I looked around.

“Do you see her?”

I looked around some more.

“No… its too dark…”

I looked around some more. Pretending to look hard but really just wondering at what point would I have to fess up. But I couldn’t. I wouldn’t cave in until I was absolutely forced to.

I continued… “I don’t know… I can’t find her… I don’t know where she is… Maybe if I go to the other side… and walk up the aisle?…” I assumed she didn’t want to follow me around as I went up and down the aisles looking for this imaginary person that I was pretty sure we both knew I made up. Plus, with her, Principal 4 had kicked in strong.

“Yeah fine whatever.”

I took this as my cue… “And when I find her… you want me to bring the ticket down to you?” assuming I could just find someone and ask for their ticket really quick and then go down and show her, the other person being an involuntary accomplice to Movie Hopping.

But she did me one better.

“No, just have her wave over here.”

Bingo. I said okay and thanked her. I walked to the other side. I walked up slowly, scanning at first, then I found my mark. I woman who, although was part of a bigger group, had an empty seat next to her. I nodded my head, then sped up my pace up the stairs, feigning recognition. I worked my way over and sat next to her. She was a teen, maybe just out of high school?

I said, “Hey, can you do me a favor and just wave to that lady…” She did…

The lady waved back and left. I explained to the girl that I had just snuck into this movie and told her I told that lady my friends were in here with my ticket. I thanked her and she laughed and said she was glad she could help. She went back to her conversation.

And thus I had successfully snuck into a movie even though the theaters were checking tickets at the door. In the end me and the teen girl both agreed The Wolfman sucked and she was jealous that I didn’t pay to see it.

My counter to this procedure was to start picking my movies a little more carefully, only trying to have one major Blockbuster Release on its opening weekend at night. They never checked them individually on weekdays. They seemed to only check those movies on Fri-Sun after a certain time… around 8pm? Also… I would buy my ticket for THAT movie… but go in way early. See… with Principal 4, you can count on the person who checks the tickets initially to not check the movie… or time, but just the theater and tell you if its on the right or left. So I would go in to see an 8pm showing of Movie D, E, or F at 11 am or Noon and just go see Movie A. By the time I hopped my way to Movie F, I already had my one ticket for that movie and could waltz right in.


I don’t want to encourage that you MUST Movie Hop, because I hate it when people encourage me to dance when I am out and about. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. But If you do want to… if the Film Junkie in you just needs their fix, then I say go for it. Its probably way easier than you would have thought… just Know your Stuff and Be Confident.

And with that, I say “Happy (Multiple) Viewings my fellow Movie Goers!”

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