The Pavilion Theater, Park Slope’s preeminent movie palace, has had a bit of a public relations problem for a very long time. First there were the complaints that the theater was filled with bedbugs, complaints one of the managers, Ross Brunetti, wrote in a public letter were “rumors” and untrue.
The bedbug fervor subsided after 2012 or so, but the complaints continued: about the famously indifferent employees, the busted HVAC system that left the theater freezing in the winter and broiling in the summer, the various mysterious spills that left the place unpleasantly sticky year-round, and the things like torn screens and fuzzy picture quality that seem like they should be, you know, avoidable. In 2012, a fuming IndieWire critic dubbed it “the worst movie theater ever.” Yelpers seem to agree.
As of Sunday, though, as Fucked in Park Slope was first to report, they have a different public relations problem to face, after kicking a 41-year-old diabetic father of three out of a screening of Divergent because he had fruit.
Michael Kass told FIPS that he’d just bought his ticket and was on his way into the theater when the ticket-taker stopped him and asked what he had in his bag. When he showed him a closed container of strawberries, the guy said he’d have to throw it out or leave. Kass said he’d only leave if he got a refund. The ticket-taker and a manager refused. So Kass made his way into the theater and quietly sat down. Moments later, he says, two police officers appeared and escorted him outside.
Kass tell us he wasn’t given a citation by the officers. “They just escorted me out,” he says. He’s 100 percent sure they were NYPD officers, not private security, a male and a female cop. “I told them I was sorry they had to get distracted by something so stupid.”
Here’s the full text of the epic, furious complaint he posted on Pavilion’s Facebook page when he got home:
Earlier today your manager, escorted by two police officers, forcibly ejected me from your theater. The offense — not rowdiness disturbing other patrons, no smoking or anything comparable — simply the fact that I brought a container of fruit into your theater and refused to either throw it away or leave the theater (without a full cash refund). I am not a “activist” or a “rabblerowser” [sic] — what I am is a 41-year old type II diabetic who loves movies and would like to be able to see them in public and enjoy a healthy snack.
I am fully willing to pay the ridiculous theater mark-up for concessions as I realize that most theaters would not be profitable without them but the theater industry (including yours) has never seemed to care enough about the health of its patrons to offer healthier options on a consistent basis.
What most other theaters HAVE done is take the common sense approach of selectively enforcing their rules against outside food to effectively allow patrons to discretely make this choice for themselves provided they do so in a manner than doesn’t compromise the sanitation (i.e., not throw nutshells on the floor) or aesthetics (i.e., not bring in hot food) of the theater.
I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to understand that your theater continues to operate at the pleasure of its local community — it’s a pretty run down structure that hasn’t had any palpable investment by its owners in many years, has frequent HVAC issues and, frankly, indexes pretty high on the “stick floors” scale. What it has goes for it is a vibrant Park Slope community willing to overlook all of this because we love movies and want a local theater. That said, we’re also one of the most health conscious communities in the city and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that your theater should not want to be seen as the forced purveyor of junk food to its patrons/their children.
I think it goes without saying that I won’t be patronizing your theater again any time soon but I’d invite you to take the time to consider revising your policies to better reflect the community you serve. No one is asking you to stock granola or grapes in your concession stand if you don’t believe you can do so profitably — but calling the “cops” on a neighborhood father of three for discretely bringing in a closed container of strawberries is beyond ridiculous and, if you don’t revise your policy, I feel pretty confident getting our community to move their movie dollars elsewhere will be pretty easy.
I invite any friends neighbors who feel similarly to post to the wall (or like this posting) to let the Pavilion’s management understand public opinion on this point.
The management, however, denies the incident took place. Sort of.
A manager from the Pavilion, who gave his name as Jonathan Milagrose, said he was “100 percent sure” the incident hadn’t taken place.
“We’re very friendly to everybody,” he said. “They can bring in Starbucks or muffins from Connecticut Muffin. I guarantee you this is not us.”
Jonathan added that the theater “never even calls the cops. We have our own private security. We’re trying to be a very upscale area.”
But Kass seemed pretty certain the whole thing had happened, and so did his wife, who furiously tweeted about the incident at various elected officials, including the mayor. She did that starting at 2:20, before Kass even posted his note on Pavilion’s Facebook page:
@BilldeBlasio my husband Michael Kass was just forcibly ejected from our neighborhood theater The Pavilion for bringing in fruit!!!
— Dara Kass (@darakass) March 23, 2014
For that matter, a second Pavilion manager who called us about 15 minutes after Jonathan also seemed to believe the incident had occurred. He didn’t give his name, but said rather hurriedly that the theater was “handling the issue” and would give comment “later.” We never heard from them again, and neither did Kass.
“I guess they just assume it will blow over,” he says. Or they’re handling another fruit-based threat to the peace and dignity of the theater. One of the two.