Sun-Ray Secrets

13 Things a Movie Theater Employee Won’t Tell You *(and 13 Things Sun-Ray’s owners will)

Find out behind the scenes info about your favorite place to see the next blockbuster.

I just stumbled upon this “expose” from Readers Digest. It’s common, and sometimes justifiable, to grouse about your local theater chain but I thought it would be interesting for Sun-Ray to address each of these big reveals to see how we stack up.

Big Box Theatre Secret #1:  Why does it smell so good? The popcorn has chemicals in it to make its aroma fill the theater .
Though a seasoning called Flavacol that includes a variety of artificial flavors and colors is very popular in other cinemas (including every theatre we’ve ever worked in) Sun-Ray DOES NOT use any chemicals in our popcorn. Corn is popped in plain canola oil with a proprietary seasoning blend that includes Himalayan and black salts mixed just for us by the good folks over at Blue Buddha here in Jacksonville.  I daresay our popcorn is the best in town, and that’s before our one-of-a-kind Fixins Bar at which you can dress your corn in curry, hot mustard, or one of a variety of toppings for no extra moolah.  And yes, we use real butter.

Big Box Theatre Secret  #2: “Extreme Digital” is actually lower quality than IMAX digital. We use it because it’s easier to maintain.

I have no idea what Extreme Digital is and of course we don’t have anything close to an Imax screen.  I can say the technology used to present films has changed in the last few years and in order to keep up with the industry standard (and thus keep our doors open) we have converted to digital projection for new releases.  We are in the process of beefing up our 35mm projection in order to accommodate repertory film screenings and while the cost to convert was definitely EXXXTREME (Barco DP2K-23B 4K projector) we won’t pass anything along as something that it isn’t. BTW, What Readers Digest neglects to uncover is that IMAX is now more or less a LIEMAX. Read more here.
Want another secret?  Some chain theatres run their bulbs at  a reduced % to save some money.  We see it the other way, we’d rather get our money’s worth from this fancy gear so we run at 100%.

We also installed Dolby Digital 3-D. While Dolby 3D is more expensive than the Real-D  what we have read and experienced ourselves is that the Dolby 3D looks a bit better than the Real D. Most chain theaters tack on three bucks to your ticket price for the 3-D glasses, but we only have a $1 surcharge to cover the cost.  Believe it or not, an Adult attending a 3D show in the  evening at Sun-Ray will pay less than for a 2D show at the local chain theater. Crazy, huh?

Big Box Theatre Secret  #3:  For the first month or two of screening, money from ticket sales goes to movie studios. Theaters rely on concession stands to make money. That’s why concessions are overpriced. Popcorn costs almost nothing to make.
The first sentence is TOTALLY FALSE.  All movie theatres, ourselves included, pay a percentage of the ticket cost every week to the studios, and it is a percentage that ain’t even close to no 100%.  It is in the interests of the multiplexes to keep this myth alive I guess to justify the insane concession prices.

Big Box Theatre Secret #4:  I know all the methods you use to sneak in. I just don’t always care enough to kick you out for it.

WE DEFINITELY CARE enough to kick you out. There are a few folks who can attest to this. Don’t try it. We have eyes EVERYWHERE.

Big Box Theatre Secret  #5: The only foods I trust are the popcorn, drinks, and boxed candy. I wouldn’t eat the pretzels, hot dogs, or nachos
This is a curious comment as in big reveal number 1 suggests that the multiplexes use chemicals on their popcorn. How can you trust that? You can trust our house made pizzas, sandwiches (bread made in house by Community Loaves), hot dogs (all beef) and even our nachos which use a house made queso . We even have a house made vegan nacho cheese and a riNotta  for those with plant based diets or dairy intolerance.  Everything we serve is made to order in our kitchen and delivered seatside.

Big Box Theatre Secret #6: Chances are, if you complain to the manager and he sides with you, he’s just putting on a show to calm you down. The manager might pretend to yell at me for a minute, but he’ll pat me on the back the moment you’re out of sight.
We don’t pat staff members on the back if they angered a customer. Customers who have received poor service typically receive free passes for their next visit and a refund.  Customer service is actually one of our top priorities when hiring.  Please let us know if you have any problems at all, in person or by emailing or

Big Box Theatre Secret  #7:  Combination deals don’t save you money at some theaters. You’d pay the same price if you purchased the items separately
We keep our prices reasonable so there is no reason to create confusing combo deals.  We encourage you to compare our popcorn and soda prices to those of the multiplexes, we come in at just about 50% of the big guys, even when taking advantage of their “deals.”  Part of this is due to our attempts to reduce waste.  All popcorn and drinks are served in reusable containers which saves both money, and the planet.  Bonus!
As far as pizzas, nachos, sandwiches, et al our prices are on par with any restaurant around.

Big Box Theatre Secret #8: Think you’re saving calories by ordering a small popcorn? That “small” popcorn could have been a medium last month.
Umm…if you are interested in saving calories may I suggest our Hummus and Veggies? I would call any size popcorn a treat that should be eaten sparingly if a person is trying to reduce.  But our sizes are consistent month to month, thank you very much.

Big Box Theatre Secret  #9: Stop getting angry that your food isn’t ready. Microwaves can’t cook frozen pizzas in 30 seconds!
We are probably the only food service establishment in town that doesn’t even own a microwave. We are very proud of our pizzas. Our dough and sauce are made fresh in house. We have a terrific stone lined deck from Sweden that cranks out quite the tasty pizza.

Big Box Theatre Secret  #10: No, I can’t give you extra cups. Everything is inventoried at the end of the night
We are happy to give you an extra cup for your soda or an extra bowl for your popcorn, just ask.  This is one of the perks of stocking reusable bowls and cups.

Big Box Theatre Secret #11: Your suspicions are correct. Sometimes I sweep excess food under the seats. Movies often end every few minutes. Sometimes, three or more screenings end at the same time. I don’t always have time to clean everything up.
Uh…o.k….sometimes we don’t even have time to sweep the popcorn under the chair but you can be sure that every night the theater is blown (with a leaf blower!) free of debris and mopped. No sticky floors here!

Big Box Theatre Secret  #12: Yes, movies start late. But they almost always end on time – otherwise, the ushers wouldn’t know when to clean up. Theaters tell you to come in early so you have time to watch commercials and previews.
Another thing we do better than the rest…We have a rather entertaining pre-show if you do arrive before showtime (which we recommend) and then only screen about 8 minutes worth of previews.

 Big Box Theatre Secret #13: Popcorn keeps for a day or two. Many customers confuse warm with fresh.
Popcorn doesn’t keep for a day or two around here. We dump it every night and pop fresh popcorn 15minutes before every show.

Ultimately, you have no reason to grouse any longer as Sun-Ray Cinema is attempting to address everything that has been going wrong with the exhibition industry for years.  The only reason to see a movie anywhere else is because we have only one screen…. for now.