Almost every modern theater uses digital projectors where movies are stored on hard drives and controlled by a computer. However, just because things are mostly automated doesn’t mean there aren't the occasional movie theater mistakes. On the contrary, for many theaters and spectators, the blunders are monumental.
It wouldn’t be a big deal if you went to a movie expecting to see A Quiet Place and instead saw the beginning of Paranormal Activity 4. However, if you’re a parent taking your seven-year-old daughter to see the animated children’s movie Madagascar 3 and instead get the graphic opening scene of Paranormal Activity 4, then it becomes an egregious error with repercussions.
It's no movie secret; theaters are run by humans, which means they sometimes mess up royally. On more than a few occasions operators either play a totally inappropriate trailer or fire up the wrong film altogether. As long as humans still have to control computers, there are going to be these kinds of mistakes.
In April 2018, several Australian school students and their parents got a scare they were not expecting. Australian schools close for a holiday called Anzac Day (which is sort of like Veteran's Day in the US). As expected, many parents brought their kids to a screening of Peter Rabbit to enjoy their day off. However, due to a mix-up at the theater, a trailer for the R-Rated horror movie Hereditary played for the Peter Rabbit audience.
The trailer for Hereditary is not for the squeamish, one part includes a young child cutting a pigeon's neck with a pair of scissors. Several parents in the theater tried to get the projectionist to stop showing the trailer. "Parents were yelling at the projectionist to stop, covering their kids’ eyes and ears, some even fleeing the theater all together," one spectator explained.
Eventually the trailer cut off and the young audience got to watch Peter Rabbit. However, the damage had already been down. As an apology, the theater offered free movie tickets for a future event. However, the tickets expired that same day, which also did not go over very well.
“Don’t get me wrong, I understand mistakes happen. But surely there should be checks to make sure trailers like that don’t get shown. And the free passes thing just added insult to injury,” the spectator continued.
In August 2014, audiences went to a Regal Cinema in Virginia to check out the summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy. However, there was a mix-up and instead of the Chris Pratt movie, the theater played the beginning of the 2012 children's animated fantasy Rise of the Guardians. The error was not initially a big deal, but then it happened again, and then a third time.
All three times, the audience was forced to sit through an entire run of trailers. The same mistake also happened in New Jersey (hopefully not three times). As a mea culpa, Regal offered replacement tickets to the audiences.
What's the exact opposite of Marvel's superhero blockbuster Black Panther? How about a sexed-up, twisted romance targeted to middle-aged housewives? In February 2018 at a movie theater outside Atlanta, GA, audiences expecting to see Black Panther instead got the beginning of Fifty Shades Freed.
One spectator reported he just figured he was watching another preview when Fifty Shades Freed started to play. However, the audience quickly surmised the error and became rather rowdy. It took the theater about 10 minutes to fix the mistake, while the audience had to sit through the Greys' lavish, sexually-fueled honeymoon.
In December 2013, a movie theater in Florida could not have made a more egregious error. Parents and young children expecting to see the animated movie Frozen, instead reportedly got the first few minutes of Danish director Lars Von Trier's controversial movie Nymphomaniac. The Shia LaBeouf starring film is lewd enough to warrant an NC-17 rating and may have even contained scenes where the actors actually have sex.
Some parents quickly rushed their kids out of the theater, while others attempted to cover their innocents' eyes as Von Trier's film continued to play. "It seemed like forever when you’re trying to, you know, cover a little guy’s eyes,” parent Lynee Greene stated. “I didn’t have enough hands to cover his ears too and he got the sound down real good.”
The projectionist can be solely blamed for the error. The alleged story is they could not get Frozen to start, so in order to fill time they started to play "filler." Unfortunately, Nymphomaniac was probably not the best choice. The theater did offer an apology to those traumatized by way of free movie tickets.