If you feel you're up to the task, here are at least three different ways of outright sneaking in to most theaters. (Single-screen houses are harder to sneak into, but there aren't many of those left any more.)

1. Two (or more) for the price of one

This is especially good for those hot summer afternoons when you'd like nothing more than to spend the whole afternoon in the frigid, air-conditioned environment of the multiplex. It also requires the least effort of the three methods. All you do is pay to see one movie and then casually walk into another auditorium afterwards to check out another. Theoretically, one could see several films this way, except for the fact that usually, after you hit the concession stand, you can't get back to the auditoriums without a ticket stub. Sometimes a ticket checker will come between you and the bathrooms too, so you may want to eat a big, dry meal before you leave home. Another fun option is peeing in an empty beverage cup out in the exit alley before settling in for your next movie. Women should remember to wear skirts, and men should remember that public nudity is usually a criminal offense.

2. Half price

This adds some extra intrigue and excitement to a date (we're thrill seekers, not mere cheapskates), and if your group numbers more than just two, then your expense will be reduced even further--though the risk you take goes up with each additional accomplice. It's starting to sound like a genuine crime is about to be committed!

First, you have to know your target. Before you even consider sneaking in, make sure you are very familiar with the layout of the whole theater complex. Pay particular attention to the exits--where they are and to which auditorium each set belongs. You will want to go on a busy night so that you can use the crowd for cover. Arrive early so that you (or an accomplice) have time to wander through the theater lobby, pinpointing the exact location of your movie's auditorium. Now exit the theater (you still haven't had to buy a ticket or interact with any ushers), and inform your waiting accomplice(s) of the exits at which they should station themselves. All that's left is for you to go back in, buy one ticket, amble into your auditorium, and let your companion(s) in through the back door. It's a good idea to make some attempt at being inconspicuous about this--everyone in your group should be as quiet as possible; they should avoid bizarre clothes; and maybe they should even wait until the previews have begun (though this depends on whether the theater gets dark at this time, which some theaters do not).

3. No money down

This is a variation on method number two, whereby your evening's entertainment is not only extra-exciting, but also entirely free.

In this case, arriving early is extremely important, because you will be relying on the previous show's exiting audience in order to get into the theater. Plan you arrival time by simply subtracting ten to twenty minutes from your film's show-time. Larger theaters tend to have longer gaps between shows to better facilitate crowd control. You will learn your target theater's habits with a little practice. When you arrive, wander the lobby to locate your destination, and then exit. Station yourself by the theater's main back exit. Station your companion(s) by the destination auditorium's exit. Remember to be as inconspicuous as possible--a good excuse (if anyone asks) is that you are waiting for your ride home. This is of particular importance if your local multiplex has rent-a-cops, or worse: real local police on patrol.

When a show lets out, people will come streaming through the main exits, and you can easily slip into the main hall. Now walk purposefully to your auditorium and let your friends in through the back door. It's possible that they have already managed to gain entry in the same way as you, but in my experience, people are reluctant to use the exits of the auditoriums themselves.

In many cases, it's a good idea at this point to block the auditorium exit (with a business card, piece of tape, or any other small item that can stop the door from latching undetectably) and continue to wait outside until ushers have cleaned the room and let the paying customers come in. This should only take five to ten minutes. It's better to overestimate, because then all you have to worry about is missing a trailer or two--underestimating could get you caught.

At this point, you can combine this method with number one above transforming it into TWO (OR MORE) FOR THE PRICE OF NONE.

4. Frontal attack

I personally have not attempted this method, nor do I recommend it to anyone but the bravest among you.

If you don't have time for all the preparations necessary for the above maneuvers, then you can do what my friend Ray (not his real name) does: simply walk right past the ticket taker or step over the velvet rope using the crowd for cover.

Obviously this method has a high risk factor, and I think Ray is a bit of an idiot to try it. Like Ray says, though, the worst that can happen is that they'll make him go out and pay. Maybe Ray's not such an idiot.

Final pointer

And finally, I want to stress the extreme importance of being as inconspicuous as possible. If they don't notice you, they can't catch you. Good luck.   </end>


JIM PYKE lives in Ann Arbor and, oddly enough, has never been caught commiting any crime.
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