Whether or not a movie theater plays a movie if no one buys a ticket for it depends on each movie theater’s policy.
I spoke with an employee at the Cinemark Perkins Rowe and AMC 16 movie theaters in Baton Rouge, Louisiana about this and this is what I found out.
It’s much more common these days for theaters to show movies if no one shows up. The main reason is if someone bought a ticket late, the theater would have to start the movie late, resulting in a scheduling nightmare for the rest of the day.
Back in the day of film projectors, it was common for theaters not to show movies if no one showed up to preserve the movie projector and movie film. These things tend to go bad over time. Also, shutting down a film projector back then wasn’t as easy as just flipping a switch as it is now. Not showing a movie would mean there was less work to do at the end of the workday.
Another factor might be the contracts theaters have with movie studios. Some theaters have requirements when to, or not to, show movies if no guests are in attendance. Violating this agreement could be a violation of the contract, which could result in fines, or even not allowing the theater to show the film anymore.
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