Cinema/Theatre Attendant

The Job and What's Involved

Attendants work in cinemas, theatres and concert halls and are responsible for the comfort and safety of audiences.

Their main duties include:

  • Checking people's tickets as they enter the auditorium.
  • Showing people to their seats.
  • Solving any problems relating to seating arrangements, such as double bookings.
  • Dealing with any disturbances that may occur during the show.
  • Helping the audience to leave in an orderly fashion at the end of a performance, and making sure all the customers have left the building.
  • Supervising the evacuation of the premises in the event of an emergency.
  • Selling programmes at the beginning of the show and refreshments during intervals.
  • Collecting litter and cleaning the facilities during the day.
  • Helping people with disabilities, such as those with wheelchairs, and making sure they have easy access to fire exits.

Attendants also need to understand health and safety regulations.

They are normally part of a small team and may gain considerable all-round experience as a result. In some venues, attendants may be required to work in the cafe or bar, or in the box office, which involves using computers to take advanced bookings and credit card payments.

Attendants must be prepared to work antisocial hours, sometimes finishing late at night. Hours of work are usually part time, and may include a Saturday matinee (afternoon performance) and several evenings. Shifts may operate from around 1.30pm to 5.15pm, and 6.30pm until 10.15pm, or later.

Over the Christmas season, particularly in theatres, extra hours may be required to cover pantomime performances. Some work at seaside theatres is also seasonal.

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls are usually air-conditioned, therefore are cool in summer and warm in winter, although they can get crowded and hot.

Uniforms are usually provided.

Cleaning the cinema or theatre can be dirty, dusty work. The work involves a lot of standing up and walking and can be physically demanding. The late nights can be tiring and a lot of time is spent working in the dark.

Depending upon age and experience, attendants are usually paid between £6 and £8 an hour. With regular work, they may earn between £11,000 and £12,000 a year.

Attendants may get to see shows free of charge and are usually given a discount on purchases made at the venue. They may also be given tickets to shows at other venues.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

According to the UK Film Council, there are 726 cinemas in the UK, many of which are now owned and operated by large leisure groups that regulate recruitment, wages, salaries and conditions of service for all their staff. Many theatres and concert halls are independently owned.

Employment opportunities are good. The UK entertainment industry is thriving and the number of cinema admissions has risen slightly, to around 164.2 million in 2008.

Jobs are advertised in local newspapers or on the websites of employers.

Education and Training

Although there are no formal educational entry requirements, some experience of dealing with people in a customer service role (for example, as a shop assistant) is useful.

Attendants are expected to be literate and numerate. Key skills qualifications may be useful.

People under the age of 18 can work as an attendant, although they are not able to work in an auditorium showing an 18 certificate film, or after 11.00pm.

The hours of work, shifts and part-time opportunities make it particularly attractive to people with study or family commitments.

An apprenticeship in customer service skills may be useful for this type of work.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

The Diploma in creative and media may be relevant for this area of work.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

New entrants learn on the job and usually shadow more experienced colleagues.

They may be able to work towards an EDI National Award in Culture and Heritage Venue Operations.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A cinema or theatre attendant should:

  • Have a polite, friendly and helpful manner.
  • Be able to deal with disturbances quickly and firmly.
  • Be a good communicator.
  • Be able to keep calm in an emergency and deal with potentially dangerous situations, for example people blocking emergency exits.
  • Be able to handle money.
  • Have good administrative skills.
  • Be good at working as part of a small team.
  • Be self-motivated.
  • Have a flexible attitude to work and be willing to help with other jobs as necessary.

Your Long Term Prospects

There are good promotion opportunities, particularly for those working for a large leisure group.

Attendants may be able to become a cashier, assistant manager, relief manager and eventually, manager. Some may also train to become a cinema projectionist.

Get Further Information

BKSTS - The Moving Image Society, Pinewood Studios,
Iver Heath, Buckinghamshire SL0 0NH
Tel: 01753 656656
Website: www.bksts.com

The British Film Institute (BFI),
21 Stephen Street, London W1T 1LN
Tel: 020 7255 1444
Website: www.bfi.org.uk

Cinema Exhibitors' Association Ltd (CEA),
22 Golden Square, London WIF 9JW
Tel: 020 7734 9551
Website: www.cinemauk.org.uk

Education Development International (EDI), International House,
Siskin Parkway East, Middlemarch Business Park, Coventry CV3 4PE
Tel: 08707 202909
Website: www.ediplc.com

The National Media Museum,
Bradford, West Yorkshire BD1 1NQ
Tel: 0870 701 0200
Website: www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk

The Projected Picture Trust,
Museum of Cinema Technology, Bletchley Park,
Bletchley, Buckinghamshire MK3 6EB
Tel: Website: www.ppttrust.org

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road, London N1 9GB
Free careers helpline: 08080 300900
Website: www.skillset.org/careers

The UK Film Council,
10 Little Portland Street,
London W1W 7JG
Tel: 020 7861 7861
Website: www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk

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