I had mentioned earlier that I had worked for a private investigator in Florida some years back. In addition to installing hidden cameras and telephone recording equipment, I also did some work that involved not sneaking around. Well, maybe it was sneaking around. But it was out in the open. I got to go to the movies. And get paid for it.
The private detective, who for the purposes of this we shall call "Dick," did all kinds of security work. You ever hear about the "secret shoppers?" That's were someone goes to a store posing as a customer to report back to someone about the experience. It's often to make sure sales practices follow established procedures. What's that got to do with the movies? Easy. They have established procedures there, too.
For instance, have you ever been to the movies and paid the clerk for a ticket, only to be handed a half-ticket? The idea is that the ticket subs for two sales. Clerk pockets one, the theatre gets one. The theatres like to know if clerks are ripping them off.
Another reason to be secret shopper for movies is on behalf of the distributor, rather than the theatre. There was (and may still be) agreements to vary the split of the take. Now I'm not sure if these numbers are exact, or even close, but the idea is like this: First week a movie plays, the distributor gets 90% and the theatre keeps 10%; second week, it's 80%-20%; third week, it's 70%-30%; and so on. So, distributor gets most of the take, the theatre keeps the smaller portion. But the concessions are kept by the theatre. That helps explain why snacks cost so much.
With the split like it is (or at least, was), some theatres may be tempted to keep more of the take than they are entitled. And some do. As a secret shopper, it was my job to get to the theatre early and be the first (or one of the first) to take a seat. This was not a problem, because that's what I normally do, anyway. So, "Dick" hired me to do it.
Normal procedure was get there early, like I said, sit down near a door in the back, and count the folks as they came in. During the film, I had to count folks as they left (restroom, snack bar, or whatever) and came back in. Then, count again as folks left after the movie was over. Again, not a big deal, because I'm one of those that likes to sit through the credits anyway. And then, usually next day, I'd report the information to "Dick" who reported back to the client.
And what did I get paid to see, you ask? What? You didn't ask? Well, somebody did. Anyway, I got paid to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That was awesome. I'm a Star Trek fan from way back. And, while Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a little lame, the next three films in the series were pretty good. Including Star Trek IV. There were other mainstream movies I was paid to see. Some were box office hits like Star Trek IV (the number 2 hit of 1986), while others weren't exactly blockbusters. Some you would have had to pay me to see. And that's exactly why I saw them.
If you're paying close attention to this, you'll notice I said "mainstream moves" to describe some of the movies. Not all were movies you'd go to most theatres and see. Others were films shown at theatres in, shall we say, unfashionable neighborhoods. Some were advertised as "triple-x" films. "Dick" had what I thought was the best name for them: "flick-nasties."
Yes, your humble servant was paid to watch dirty movies. And, most of them were really, really bad movies. Duh-huh. But, occasionally there was one that you might have heard of. Okay, I had heard of them. You must remember, the '70s and early '80s were the "golden age" of flick-nasties. Yes, some of the movies actually had plots. And, if folks had kept their clothes on, would have been mediocre mainstream films. And, for flick-nasties, that's a really, really good film. Anyway, I was paid to see "The Devil In Miss Jones," "Behind The Green Door," "Deep Throat," and "The Opening Of Misty Beethoven," among others. If you've never heard of any of these, it's probably a good thing.
And the money I got from watching flick-nasties? Disinfectant.
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