Movie theater worker explains why you should what you do in your seat during screening

StockLite/TikTok @man_likeaj/TikTok (Licensed)

‘The couples at the back’: Customer shows new movie theater cameras—and reveals why you should watch what you do in your seat

'The food I bought from outside.'


Grace Rampaul


Posted on Mar 5, 2024   Updated on Mar 5, 2024, 7:54 am CST

Salty popcorn, soda, Skittles and… surveillance? These four words may not be exactly what you’d group together when thinking about a movie theater. 

But as cinemas across the globe have been adapting to the slowly growing crowds since the pandemic, theaters have been making sure to adopt surveillance systems, ranging from discreet cameras to advanced facial recognition software.

With over 24.8 million views and 2.6 million likes, this is exactly what content creator Ashan (@man_likeaj) warned his viewers of in his TikTok posted last month in West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Amid the flickering glow of the concluding movie credits, Ashan shares a quick clip of his perspective while a haunting Jordan Peele-sque rendition of Luniz’ “I Got 5 On It” plays. 

“Next time you [go to] cinema,” Ashan writes while showing the concessions line. 

Then, Ashan quickly flashes a glimpse at his local cinema’s CCTV screen with 10 different perspectives of just one screening room. 

“Just remember.. They are watching…” Ashan concludes. 

Now while these cameras have the ability to see clearly in pitch black rooms, they may not be looking for what you’d imagine. Other than for basic safety concerns, 2M Technology reports that they are actually installed to stop any form of piracy from happening. As theaters continue to modernize, they are adding newers cameras with infrared sensors to assure full visibility in these dark rooms. 

2M Technology also reports that these camera’s can catch those planning on infringing intellectual property laws through picking up the “red dot” on their phones or camcorders. 

The cameras commonly used are PTZ, meaning pan-tilt-zoom lenses. These cameras have the ability to rotate, tilt both up and down, and zoom at the hands of a controller with movement over 3 axes. 

And while many may think that snapping a quick video of a scene or two may be a victimless crime with little punishment, the pirate may actually find themselves as the true victim. According to the National Association of Moviegoing Experience, or NATO, the use of audiovisual recording devices within a theater is punishable by up to potentially three years in federal prison and a hefty $250,000 fine. This includes even recording the trailers before the film begins.  Violators may be subject to arrest and felony prosecution. 

It isn’t just piracy these theaters worry about. On a more lighthearted note, they also worry about snacks. Yes, snacks. Personal Finance enthusiast and expert Humphrey Yang reports that small theaters make roughly 80% of their revenue from concessions, while larger chains like AMC earn 35%. 

So, of course, cinemas are curious about who may be bringing in outside snacks or drinks. Because, once again, these small actions can lead to much larger revenue loss than one would imagine. 

Commenters on Ashan’s videos were quick to point this out also. With a handful of comments referencing food and sneaky-snacks, it was clear that this was the biggest concern for movie-goers. 

@man_likeaj Well 😂 #foryou #fy #cinema ♬ I Got 5 On It – Tethered Mix from US – Michael Abels & Luniz

“The Cinema employees watching me pull a full course meal out of my purse,” one said.

“Cinema employees seeing the food I obviously didn’t buy from them,” another said, gaining over 127,700 likes. 

Cinema employees were even chiming in stating that Ashan’s warning was both justified and truthful because they can confirm that theaters do have these viewing abilities. 

Such surveillance most recently came to light with the arrival of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Movie, displaying every inch of her 3.5 hour set in close-up high definition. Reported on by the Daily Dot in Oct. 23, Taylor Swift fans were caught moshing at the theater by both other patrons and the theater’s security footage. 

So while you may be nervous about if any theater employees saw you bring in that bag of Takis, or saw you sneak that kiss with your crush, the truth is, they probably have. But, what the theaters are most concerned about is security, so unless you are bringing in a whole 5-course-meal, there isn’t much to worry about. 

The Daily Dot reached out to Ashan (@man_likeaj) via TikTok direct message for comment.

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*First Published: Mar 5, 2024, 4:00 am CST