The Disgusting Results To Our Dirty Movie Theater Investigation

Published: May. 13, 2008 at 10:24 PM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2008 at 2:43 PM CDT
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It's a weekend staple--going to the movies on a Friday or Saturday night, but you won't believe what's lurking underneath and on that theater seat. KLTV 7's Tracy Watler set to find out. You saw her swabbing headrests, armrests, even the floor. In part two of our KLTV 7 investigation, the results that may make you bring your own seat to the movies.

It may not have you running from the movie theater, but we did find some pretty scary stuff. So much stuff you may "think twice" before heading to the box office.

"Actually probably more than twice you know," says Palestine resident Antonio Acosta.

"That's pretty disgusting," says John McCorkle from Lindale.

"You never know what's hiding underneath or what's hiding on top of those seats," says Microbiologist Dr. Richard Wallace with UT Health Science Center in Tyler.

Oh, but now we do.  After going to four popular East Texas theaters and swabbing seats, armrests, headrests, the works, it's now showtime.

"This is a typical plate from one of these and all these raised looking things represent individual colonies of bacteria, and there's just thousands and thousands of them on there," Dr. Wallace says pointing out one of the petri dishes.

Those are gram negative rods, the stuff that can really make you sick.

"What I expected was skin organisms, the typical type of staph species things and those were almost universal in all the samples. You expect that because of people laying their hands on the seats," he explains.  "What I didn't expect were what we call stool organisms or fecal organisms."

That's right.  Hundreds of thousands of colonies of fecal matter.

"Oh, gross!!! That's nasty," says Tyler resident Janie Jeffus after hearing the news of our results.

"Yeah, it's kinda gross especially if you're eating popcorn, and hands to mouth to foods and snacks, like we do at movie theaters," says Canton resident Barbara Pinson.

"Oh gross!  OK, I've often wondered the same thing myself, really, it's kinda scary," agrees Bullard resident Lee Pinion.

Dr. Wallace tells us, "it was everywhere, there wasn't a lot of difference where you tested whether it was the seat, the headrest, the armrest or the floor.  They were all heavily contaminated."

Dr. Wallace adds out of all 13 cultures there was only one where they found no gram negative rods, and amazingly it happens to be from the floor at the Jacksonville movie theater.

Everywhere else--fecal matter and at every theater.  Dr. Wallace says that's a direct result of someone going to the bathroom and not washing their hands.

"This is really heavy it's not like one or two and we should be concerned, it's a reminder that you'll have to wash your hands after you go to the movie theater as well," he adds.

Jackson Cinema III in Jacksonville was the only theater to respond to our calls and emails. They told me they steam clean their seats several times a year, saying in an email "our owner expects two things out of us that keep our patrons coming back. He expects a clean theater and for us to be courteous. We try to maintain both of these goals at all times. We are a family business and take pride in our theatre by bringing them the best movie going experience we possibly can."

But for those of you who've had that "sticky" movie-going experience...."on the floor when you find yourself watching where you step and 'am I going to put my purse down there or not?'" points out East Texan Angie Johnston.

"I'd probably take me a handi-wipe," says Bill Smith from Tyler.

And Dr. Wallace says that's a good idea.  To protect yourself, wipe down the seat and bring hand sanitizer especially before you dive into that bag of popcorn.

"That sounds disgusting."

It definitely brings a whole new meaning to the words--"Dirty Movie."

Tracy Watler, Reporting