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Behind the Scenes with a Cinema Concessionaire

March 25, 2001|LESLEE KOMAIKO

In 1999, inspired by her younger brother's rapid rise through the ranks at General Cinema Hollywood Galaxy, Cecilia Salas accepted an entry-level job at the same theater. Today the 24-year-old Los Angeles native and mother of two holds the position of Staff Lead. Her brother has since moved on. Salas, who names the "Godfather" films and "Braveheart" among her favorites, says the best thing about her job is "the crew and the customers. You meet all different kinds of people." On a recent Friday night, we watched Salas in action.

*

6:40 p.m. Salas arrives, 10 minutes late, in purple General Cinema polo shirt and black pants.

6:42 She stores her purse in locker emblazoned with an "Enjoy PORNO" sticker, explaining, "It's not mine," and heads downstairs to concessions to help during the rush.

6:50 "One Original Bavarian Pretzel," says a middle-aged man, laying a five on the counter. Salas tells him the pretzel will take about three minutes to cook. "I've got all the time in the world," he says.

7:00 "What is it with this Coke machine!" shouts a co-worker. Salas assesses the situation. "Aaah. Too much gas."

7:10 A man in a Panavision Hollywood sweatshirt orders a medium popcorn. "But can you fill it up halfway and then put butter on it, then fill it up, then put more butter?" Salas informs him that the butter is self-serve.

7:15 "Is that the only kind of sauce?" asks a 20-something Englishman, when presented his tray of nachos with side of orange liquid cheese. "Tomato?" he asks, pronouncing the word like the Queen Mother. Salas shakes her head. "If you want something hot," she says, gesturing to the condiments counter, "there are jalapenos over there."

7:17 Salas visits the storage room to get more pretzels, water cups and monster popcorn buckets.

7:20 "People think it's from Costco," says Salas, as a colleague empties popcorn from a giant yellow plastic bag into the concession display. In fact it is popped fresh behind the scenes.

7:35 "Who's popping back there?" Salas asks a colleague. It's Lissette. Says Salas: "Oh, she loves to pop. I don't know why. It's the most boring thing."

7:50 Goateed guy wearing a Betty mask from "Sugar & Spice" orders a "super large Diet Coke." Behind him, another customer shows his date his nipple ring.

7:52 "Do me a favor, please," asks a colleague. "Can you get me some Peanut and Crispy M&Ms sometime this millennium? And some Goobers, too? And can you make it snappy?" Salas responds, "I'm going to make you do trash by yourself tonight."

7:55 "Excuse me," inquires an older Englishman. "How do you actually put the butter on?" Salas demonstrates. "You have to get it right up close," she explains. "Oh," says the man, "this is complicated."

8:00 Referring to the evening's Usher Schedule and Breakdown Sheet, Salas determines break times. A colleague approaches. "Me and Gladys would preferably like our break at the same time because I don't have any money and she's going to buy me dinner," she says. Another employee puts in his appeal. "I want to catch McDonald's while it's open."

8:40 Salas asks a new crew member to cover the door during another employee's break. "Do you know how to do it?" she asks. "You just take 'em and tear 'em and put half in the box," he answers. "Which half do you keep?" Salas quizzes. Silence follows. "Keep the one with the big number on it," she says.

9:35 Salas checks a fifty dollar bill for a colleague. After holding the bill to the light to confirm the watermark and feeling for ridges in Grant's coat, she hands it back. "That's good."

9:40 Noting an ice cream shortage, Salas gets Drumsticks and Bon Bons from storage.

9:45 "I'll take the Cherry Icee," says a 30-something man, "the red dye number five." As he waits for his order, he announces to a friend, "You know, the more you make, the more you spend."

10:00 The new door guy tells Salas someone wants a refund. A manager intercedes.

10:07 "I'm going to kill this machine," Salas says to no one in particular, as the Diet Coke dispenser shoots out pure foam.

10:09 "Do you have pizza?" asks a customer. "No," Salas tells him. "Let me have four hot dogs then." Salas relays the order to a colleague. "Perros calientes?" asks the colleague, who is working on her Spanish.

10:12 A burly guy asks, "How many ounces is a large popcorn?" Salas isn't sure. "How many ounces is a large soda?" Forty-four, Salas tells him. "I was like a pregnant woman today," he volunteers. "I just wanted to go to the movies and eat popcorn and Coke."

10:20 Salas enjoys a Coke and Cup Noodles, both brought from home, on her break. Only about 41/2 hours to go. If she's lucky, she'll be out by 2:45 a.m.

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