JACKSON METRO AREA, MS (WLBT) - Who doesn't love going to the movies with its big screens, surround sound and the suspense that leaves you on the edge of your seat? Most people never thinks about the spooky things that might be lurking around the audience.
WLBT partnered with UMC and Dr. Donna Sullivan to test for bacteria in metro area theaters. Our first stop was Flowood's Parkway Place for Life As We Know It, the first showing of the day. Using a sterile swab we swipedthe floor, the headrest and the armrest.
Next stop was a late night showing of Social Network at Malco Grandview in Madison. Again, we swab the headrest, armrest and floor. It was the same routine at Tinseltown in Pearl for a matinee viewing of Red. Last stop was Northpark for their latest showing of The Town.
UMC processed the swabs and shared their findings. For Parkway Place, the headrest and arm rests are fairly clean.
"However the floor is another matter," said Donna Sullivan, Ph.D. and Director of Infectious Diseases at UMC. "A tremendous amount of material associated with fecal type of contamination which has a large number of colonies both lactose fermenting which would be typical of something like Ecoli."
At Malco traces of fecal contamination are also found on the floor, but the most bacteria was on the head and arm rests including Staph Aureus.
"They will pop your red blood cells given the opportunity," said Dr. Sullivan. "I would be a little hesitant myself."
Tinseltown's swabs turned out clean armrests and headrests, but the floor was another story.
"This one is really slimy and nasty because what you have here some of the other organisms we associate with inherent infections," said Dr. Sullivan.
Northpark was the last theater and the tests were nearly spotless. "It was very clean, very clean," said Dr. Sullivan.
For movie lovers the findings were frightening. "That's nasty," said Angel Brown who just saw Saw 3D at Malco Grandview.
"That's kind of concerning. You know especially since we're getting into flu season," said movie lover Laura Post.
"Just wouldn't think of that kind of bacteria being where so many people are in public," said movie buff Carol McElroy.
We asked Dr. Sullivan to rank the theaters for cleanliness. Northpark easily took the top spot, but it shared something in common with the theater Dr. Sullivan named the dirtiest, Parkway place. They were both owned by United Artists and the Regal Entertainment Group.
Regal spokesperson Chad Browning gave us this statement,"Each auditorium is cleaned after every show and a cleaning service comes in at the end of each business day to clean as well. Our company and our management teams are dedicated to providing the very best experience for our guests on a daily basis. A commitment to facility cleanliness and safety is one of the essential points in reaching our goal of excellence in guest service. We strive to always provide a safe and clean environment for our guests in order for them to truly be able to enjoy an entertaining experience."
Dr. Sullivan ranked Malco Grandview and Tinseltown both in the middle.
Karen Scott, a spokesperson for Malco Theatres, gave the following statement.
"We view any report that raises the awareness level of the importance of maintaining a clean and sanitary facility to be a plus whether it's directed toward a school, a hospital, a stadium,a movie theatre or a home. We stress to all of our employees the importance of cleaning between each show, checking restrooms every 30 minutes and at the end of the day, a complete mopping and sanitizing of each auditorium. We spend in excess of $130,000 annually using a professional cleaning crew and the health dept inspects us on a regular basis - we've never had an issue regarding the cleanliness of our facility. We take great pride in our buildings and do everything possible to insure our patrons are treated in a first class manner.
Additionally, each employee is required to wash their hands after visiting the restrooms and when working in the concession areas. For our patrons and employees, we have sanitary hand cleaners located throughout the theatre and door mats at each entrance for wiping feet. Our staff has been instructed to police auditoriums looking for patrons who place their feet on the backs of chairs. We also know it may be necessary in the future to remove patrons from auditoriums who, after being warned not to do so, continue putting their feet on the backs of seats.
As we continue to do our part, we hope that this report will inform patrons of the importance of keeping their feet of the seat backs."
A spokesperson with Cinemark Tinseltown said, "After every show employees clean the auditoriums with approved disinfectants. Pest control treatments are conducted on a monthly basis. There are also an annual professional cleaning for all the seats."
Maybe the edge of your seat isn't such a scary place to be after all..
Dr. Sullivan said most of the bacteria that we discovered could be found in public places people frequently visit. The theaters were visited mid-week which is not the busiest time.
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