When I’m not taking classes at St. Lawrence and living in Canton, I work at my local movie theatre. The particular cinema I work at is one of the smaller franchises in an enormous corporate enterprise, that accounts for over five hundred theatres, in nearly every state of the U.S. Naturally my pay is lousy. In fact its barely above minimum wage, which, considering that I’ve worked at this particular business for almost three and a half years, is not only frustrating for me, but basically insults my reluctance to test such a hostile job market for “seasonal” work.
Maybe its due to the fact that my beguiled, corporate lemming of a boss not only fails to pull his own weight (pun intended), but simultaneously manages to infuriate everyone in the theatre, with a robotic demeanor of corporation approved behavior, that, whether consciously or not, seems to be attached to nearly everything he says or does. “It’s all gotta go through corporate” is probably the most common sentence I hear come out of my GM’s mouth, which I wouldn’t find particularly disturbing if I didn’t sense an undertone of superiority, as if he and the rest of the upper management were tallying their profits and chuckling, knowing all to well the high ground they occupied over their disenfranchised employees in the face of unemployment.
Luckily, I now only work at the theatre on summer and winter break, and even though my job itself is relatively straightforward and easy, I still find the majority of the time that I’m working to be mildly depressing. Its not such much the people I work with or the continuous, remedial tasks I have to perform, it’s really more of the collective hate and resentful obedience shared by the whole staff for our general manager. His ineptitude is beyond words. Not even so much for the things he does wrong (of which there are dozens each day), it’s his inability to understand that what he’s doing isn’t right, by either delegating blame to his employees or corporate superiors, which ever suits him for the particular occasion.
There isn’t anyone I work with that doesn’t have a list of frustrated complaints from being left out in the cold by my boss. If you need more hours he’ll say he can’t use up any more payroll or his boss (the district manager) will be unhappy. On days when it is busy, most of which we are usually understaffed, he’ll say that the corporate projections for the day were off, and that he didn’t think we’d need any more staff. While all of what I’m saying may sound like a character assassination of my boss, in reality it’s a scathing critique of the corporate hierarchy that created him. What my GM, and all others like him, represents is someone who can fill the all-important space between the six-figure, corporate brass and the minimum wage hourly workers. Essentially he is a roadblock, whose management role is to keep us out of sight and out of mind, so that his corporate superiors can more easily look past the actual people who maintain their theatres, and focus on the all important sales figures and profit margins.
What I’ve taken from my experiences working at the movie theatre is how much distance the corporate structure creates between the average employee and the profit they create. Not only are we denied an adequate share of the revenues our theatre generates, but we are discouraged from trying to improve our own stock within the company. My GM once let it slip to me in a conversation that his boss, and the rest of the upper management, typically liked to see a high level of turnover in a theatres staff so that they could keep rehiring people, and only have to pay starting wages. That way they wouldn’t be required to give as many raises and promotions. On a given day the theatre might only have to spend five percent of what it makes on payroll, and considering the ridiculous mark-up on the prices of concessions like popcorn and candy (which are both over 400% of what we pay for them), its easy to see how a cinema that’s only manned by three or four people at a time might be able to make some considerable profits. But at the end of the day all the money ends up leaving the theatre in an armored car; “transported” to our corporate headquarters hundreds of miles away. Its kinda sad seeing your days work walk out the door in a duffel bag, especially when you realize you’ll only end up getting twenty bucks back. Luckily for me I’ll probably never have to depend on this job to make a living, but after working among those who do now for three years I truly feel sorry that they’ll have to keep being reminded of that feeling every day.
Sorry I realize this is a little long-winded but my frustration really boiled over one night and kind of turned into a rant. I’ll understand if you cant use this or have to significantly edit it
Jake Milender (603) 738-6741