Reel jobs: cinema usher

“It doesn’t really feel like work.” The candy bar at Palace Cinemas in Norton St, Leichhardt. Photo: David Hickey

BY DAVID HICKEY

The life of a student is not an easy one. While we put in the study hours in the hope that they’ll pay off in the future, our rent, utilities and alcohol expenses pile up in the present. We need something that pays off now. All the kids pulling beers and folding pants are well aware of retail and hospitality being our primary options. Yet maybe in the very same street or mall there lingers the savoury scent of popcorn wafting amongst the laughter of not just cinema audiences, but also cinema staff.

“It’s by far the best job I’ve ever had,” says Jaiden, an employee of Palace Cinemas in Norton St Leichhardt. “Every shift is so chilled and cruisy. It doesn’t really feel like work. I don’t know how I’m going to cope when I get another job.”

So in actual fact, how “cruisy” is this job? Lets see: Can you rip up a ticket stub? Can you open and close doors? Done – you have the required skill set of a cinema usher. Can you scoop popcorn? Can you pour drinks? You’d fit right in at the candybar. Perhaps there’s a little more to it than that, but not much. Plus you’ll never find yourself stuck mopping up alco-vomit or collecting glasses ’til sunrise. So you’ll be all bright and fresh for a morning study sesh.

Dominic, a manager at Palace Cinemas in Norton St, Leichhardt, has worked in the cinema since she finished school. She says “It’s been great to have while I’ve been going to uni. I think I’ll be here a bit longer. Until my degree is finished at least I’d say. Most of the people that work here are students too.”

A cinema is at its busiest outside office hours, which conveniently enough are much the same as class hours. Friday nights, Saturday nights and Sundays are the peaks and these might interfere with party times. But no job is perfect, right? You’re earning money instead of spending it, and going out Saturday nights is for the weekend warriors anyway. That’s not us…yet.

When it comes to the issue of finance, the cinema delivers again. Everyone loves some casual pay rates. Who needs holiday pay, sickies or even a hint of job security when you can have an extra $4 an hour? The fluctuating nature of cinema attendance, dictated by the popularity of which movies are showing at the time, ensures that most positions are casual.

The best perk of the job: free movies. Andy works at Palace and runs a film blog. As well as being useful for reviewing films he might not be able to attend a press screening for, it’s generally a great social activity. He explains: “We can go whenever we’d like and bring a friend for free too. Not just at Palace either. There’s an agreement amongst a few of the artier cinemas that lets us go to those as well. But if you go to your own, you’ll get popcorn and drinks for free.”

Tell me that isn’t money.

The nitty gritty:

Hourly Rate: $18 – $23 per hour
Working Hours: 9:30am – 12:00am
Shifts: 14+ hours per week
Benefits: Free movie tickets with a plus one

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