I swore off movie-going for a while because I had read too many articles (fact: one is too many) about bed bugs in movie theaters, but when I decide to overcome my fears, I do it in a big way. Which is why I found myself at the AMC Empire 25 multiplex in Times Square—site of many past bed bug infestations—on Sunday night.
I gave a nod to the ghosts of bed bugs past by posting an Instagram Story geotagging the theater with the caption "No bedbugs please," and happily set up camp in Row E of Theater 6, which has a roomy aisle in front of it. That's how my husband and I had a pretty decent view of a creature that was scurrying under the seats during the previews.
AMC had just shown a promo asking moviegoers to social media their experiences at their theaters with the hashtag #shareamc, so clearly, I could still use my cellphone at this time. And boy, did I have some content to share.
We looked around to see if anyone else noticed it, but the theater was still filling up, so we sat alone with what we had just seen, contemplating whether or not to leave. I was definitely rattled, but I really wanted to see BlacKkKlansman, so I decided we should stay and simply put our feet up on the railing to prevent rat-on-foot contact. The rat kept out of sight for the remainder of the evening, but who knows what was lingering in the darkness.
When I got to work this morning, my colleague Jen Carlson told me she looked at the Yelp page for the AMC Empire 25, which has multiple mentions of mice and rats. "I decided not to tell you about these comments while you were in the theater," she said. Here are just a few of the Yelp reviews:
- I went to see it..there was a rat on the first 3 seat rows not sure if others noticed as there was barley [sic] people and they were all mid to upper level I was on the 4th row which is where there is a ramp as I'm watching the movie with my popcorn I see a freakin rat that was small making me feel there is more but seeing that just ruined the whole thing for me especially since I bought food. Just a horrible experience, try any other amc or regal. Not going back there again. I saw another review regarding a mouse trap so highly recommend going somewhere else as it might be the people running this place as I've seen other reviews on their staff—Tommy C., September 26, 2017
- A RAT ran across the seats of an entire row jumping from one armrest to the next seat. OMG. Yes a RAT!—Darius M., August 20, 2017
- They had bedbugs, and now they have rats too! A rat jumped on me in the middle of the movie. I saw it scamper away.—Andy L., December 11, 2012
- April 11, 2011 - went to see "Hanna" but jumped out of my seat and left after seeing a RAT in the theater just before the movie started. Management refunded my ticket price but otherwise didn't seem to care much about the RAT. I guess they're not paid enough for that.—Michael B., April 12, 2011
There's also a history of rat sightings documented on Twitter:
A friend writes: "Not making this up. There is a mouse in Theater 19 at the AMC Empire 25. It just ran two feet from me. I’m holding onto my popcorn!" Maybe he'll eat the bedbugs?
— Stephen Whitty (@StephenWhitty) November 8, 2017
Not one, but TWO rats spotted in Theatre 12 of AMC 25 😳 Lets see what happens when they shut the lights and the movie starts 🐀
— newyork808 (@newyork808) October 5, 2014
The rats at the AMC Empire have reached in-joke status:
— Jen Mayhew (@JenM512) August 27, 2013
— Jordan Hoffman (@jhoffman) April 6, 2016
My other colleague Chris Robbins suggested that it could be a mouse. "A rat would be gross because they carry diseases," he declared. Mice only have diseases in their droppings. But, really, DOES IT EVEN MATTER?
So hey, there was a mouse in the AMC 25 in Times Square. Prevented me from seeing Attack the Block there.
— Alex Chancey (@achance42) July 29, 2011
@AMCTheatres AMC Empire 25 en NY. Movie was beautiful, but we had to leave Theatre 20 cause there were MICE. Please, clean the theatre!
— Martin A. Rivas (@MartinRivasPhD) March 30, 2018
I reached out to AMC Theatres about the rat issue at the AMC Empire; I'll update this post if they get back to me. But a 2014 Daily News article about rats in the AMC in Kips Bay offered this quote from a traumatized moviegoer, "Two of the staff members said this happened all the time — 'We work here, but we never go to the movies here.'"
Obviously all movie theaters need to bring in cats to solve this problem before it gets out of hand.