If a Movie Plays in an Empty Theater…



Recently on the podcast Maltin on Movies, Leonard Maltin had Paul Scheer as a guest on the show. One of the many things they talked about was the eternal question: If no one shows up for a movie theater screening, do they still run the projector? If the projectionist kills the movie after 10 minutes, what happens if someone walks in 15 minutes late?

Back in the 80s – probably around 1983 or so, well after its initial release – I saw that Raiders of the Lost Ark was playing at a small theater in Jackson, Mississippi near where my mom lived. She’d never seen it during its initial run and wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I took her to see it one afternoon.

We bought our tickets for the 1:00pm show and took our seats in an otherwise empty theater. About five minutes after 1:00, the manager came up to us and said, “Sorry, but if no one else comes in soon, we won’t be able to show the movie. We’ll need at least two more people for us to break even on the electricity required to run the film.” Wouldn’t you know it, in a few minutes two more people came into the theater and we were able to see the film, my mom watching it for the first time.

So my question is this: Have you ever watched a movie in an empty or near empty theater? What was it? Where was it? When? Was it just you or were there others with you? I’m very interested in hearing your stories… Please elaborate in the comments section.

Photo: Time

2 thoughts on “If a Movie Plays in an Empty Theater…

  1. Keisha, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad the theater ran the film, even if it was only for one person. I’ve never been the only person in the theater, but if I were, I’d be afraid to go out for popcorn or to the bathroom, fearing they’d think I wasn’t coming back and stop the movie!


  2. When I saw Before Midnight, I was the only person in the theater. This was in a small town about two hours away from Chicago, and I went on a Wednesday afternoon. That’s the only time that’s happened, but there have been some other times where I was one of about five people at a showing.


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