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Unhappy with Palo Alto Square Theater Practices

Original post made by Anon., Crescent Park, on Jun 11, 2011

Maybe I would not be posting this if I had not previously had problems at the Palo Alto Square theater with bad management reactions to obvious customer satisfaction problems, but I have - so I will relate my experience was last night with the 7:15pm showing of the "Tree Of Life".

Understand first that there were several showings of this movie earlier in the day yesterday ... Friday June, 10, 2001.

"Tree Of Life" started out fairly normal, but at frequent points throughout the movie the soundtrack would cut out leaving the theater in silence for some random amount of time. The random amounts of time seemed to get longer as the movie progressed.

The first problem is that in this age of minimum wage service workers and maximizing profit apparently they do not have projectionists that does anything but claim to spot check the movie occasionally. With movie prices north of $10 these days why can't movie theaters provide some service for their customers by reacting when the picture or sound goes out of the movie is severely out of focus? I have had this happen many times in many theaters but it seems to get worse over time. not better as it should.

Being proactive and a bit of a type-A I am often the first person to go out into the lobby and try to track down someone to fix the movie. That means I get to lose the experience of sitting through the movie and enjoying it instead I have to get up and complain and often walk all around theaters to find who is not off taking a break or something.

One suggestion for good service would be to give a free pass to anyone who reports a validated problem in a theater. Maybe dock the projectionist's pay if the audience reports it before he is on the jobto fix it.

Since there were other showings of this movie it seems logical that they had the same problem with the movie previously, yet they acted like it was a big surprise when 20-30 people are standing in the lobby to complain about the movie. But no, they have to make their opening day movie sales, so they keep the shows going even when they know they are not going to be providing a good movie experience to them. This is basically a minor form of fraud isn't it?

When I got to finally talk to someone they had no explanation of what was wrong. They told me that there was no one monitoring the movie, only occasionally spot checking.

They took about 20 minutes to start processing the refund lines and at that time they only give a free pass.

Personally given all the other bad faith errors and mistakes they seemingly had made - it seems to me they should at least give everyone 2 passes as a way of apologizing and meaning it. Here is why ...

If I am going to see a movie I have a night planned to see a movie I presumably care about and want to see. When that night and that movie are ruined, it is nice that I am remunerated, albeit foot-dragginly slow, but if I use that pass to see the same movie I am not made whole in the sense of being compensated. Seeing the same movie again when it is ruined is not compensating people, and if I see another movie that is again nice, but that experience does not make up for the experience of wasting a whole night on the other movie. One pass does not compensate viewers and when the fault is the theaters it is almost an insult.

No, what is fair is for everyone affected to get two passes in order to be properly apologized to and reimbursed for what should be the theater's mistake. After all they could set the movie up and play it ahead of time if they were professional and wanted to really serve their customers.

In this age of Amazon.Com and other customer-centric businesses, why are movies theaters ... and in particular this Cinemark theater chain that runs both the Palo Alto Square and Century Theaters in this area so customer-UNcentric?

I am sorry to rant on at such length about this, but does anyone have any suggestions how to push these businesses off their lazy, greedy seats and motivate them again to provide theatergoers with excellent movie-going experiences? Embarassing them on Palo Alto Online is the only thing I could think of. Thank you.

Comments (12)

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Posted by qq
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2011 at 3:02 pm

"but does anyone have any suggestions how to push these businesses off their lazy, greedy seats and motivate them again to provide theatergoers with excellent movie-going experiences?"

Once bit, twice shy. Vote with your wallet. Don't patronize them again. Wait for it to show up online. And always remember, for every customer that complains, there are 99 more that are thinking the same thing.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I agree, customer service is so shoddy or uncaring often nowadays, that when it IS good, it is worth thanking/recognizing it!
I also agree with voting with your feet. Patronize businesses that appreciate your business and care.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2011 at 7:04 am

I understand your frustration when movies go bad. The theater business is not high margin: Cinemark Holdings reported a 5.24% net profit margin for Q1 2011.

Are you willing to pay another $1 for the ticket to pay for a projectionist?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2011 at 11:24 am

Very sad to read this story.

PA Square shows movies which are not shown in other theaters and for this reason I frequent it more often than Century theaters. The seats are more comfortable too. Deciding to vote with your feet may take away the "going to the movies" experience altogether.

It is often true to say that the caliber of a business is how it deals with its problems and complaints. The people working at the time of a showing may not have much authority to do anything more than follow a standard policy. Writing a polite letter to the management with your feelings may prove better than complaining to the on duty manager who may be nothing more than college student with a couple of years experience at the job.

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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Hey Resident, thanks for commenting. I like the Palo Alto Square, from way back.
So far back I am not even sure I recall correctly that it was one huge theater at one time before it was cut in two, like the Aquarius was well. It is very comfortable, and usually very clean, but this process they and many other theaters have of monitoring their movie's running, and dealing with customer complaints leaves a lot of room for improvement.

I always think in cases like this about people who talk about the free market and competition solving problems and making things better. We have a lot of theaters around here and I don't know of any one of them that does a good job of either of these issues, or even a better job.

I do not even know if there is an address for their management ... I can never find a phone number like most theaters used to have when I was a kid. You could not reach anyone in any of these places if Osama bin Laden came back to life and went to see a movie! ;-)

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Hi Anon,

Just in case you didn't see it, here's the link to contact Cinemark:
Web Link
I know that filling out an online form isn't very satisfying, but perhaps if they learn you posted on a local forum about your bad experiences, they'll take you seriously & do something to prevent future problems.

I know what it takes to sit down & post a complaint online, so it sounds very frustrating. I hope they do something to try to improve & that they respond to your complaint, if you contact them.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Oops, forgot! They're in Plano, TX & here is their 800 #: 1-800-246-3627

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Posted by Ken
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2011 at 10:03 am

You might also right a review on Yelp. I know restaurants often look at their reviews. I have no idea whether a theater manager (particularly a corporate one not based here) would do the same. But it wouldn't take could even just cut and paste your post here.

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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 14, 2011 at 10:12 am

Ken, that's not a bad idea.

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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 14, 2011 at 10:18 am

Except that the reviews on Yelp are reviewing mostly the movies and the theater compared with other theaters ... they are all fairly high, which I'd have to agree with, I like the Palo Alto Square theater under normal circumstances when everything works well.

I guess they feel they do not HAVE to do any better so they don't.

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Posted by anon
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Movie-going has gone downhill, with the Multi-plexes leading the way. I wonder whether there would be a niche for a small, comfortable venue with first-run IFC-type films? WITH a projectionist. I wouldn't mind paying to make it economically work for a local small business, but I don't imagine the distribution business would allow it to work.

Recall when a couple ran a program of after-first run recent films at Spangenberg, and got closed down because of the popcorn smell?

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Posted by Zamstar
a resident of University South
on Jul 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm

"You might also right a review on Yelp. I know restaurants often look at their reviews."

I know it's a day late, but I just had to respond to this. Could you be referring to the Yelp mentioned in these articles? If so, then relying on Yelp could well be a waste of time. I think it is.

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

I made a number of accurate, politely worded reviews that fell well within Yelp's guidelines. Two months later, all my reviews were deleted and I was locked out of my account. My crime? Dunno, but I did give bad reviews (and rightly so) to a couple of restaurants who had paid for Yelp membership. Another review disagreed, in a polite manner, with some negative reviews on a restaurant. In my opinion, Yelp is good for locating restaurants, theaters, etc., but the reviews are often unreliable.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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