A couple of years ago I worked at an art museum as a security officer while the museum was closed under construction. I know what you’re thinking—it was kind of a weird gig. I wasn’t there long, but in my short time there, especially with it not being open to the public, I experienced a lot!
My plan to work at an art museum and slowly work my way up into the art department came to a rapid halt and got derailed once the museum was set to open. I learned a local bakery was going to be opening inside of it, and that they would be toasting peanuts in-house. How random, right? I tried to see if they would not serve peanut products, or even just not roast peanuts on-site, since they have another main location in Louisville, but they said no. I was disappointed and had to quit after having 2 airborne reactions, but I also understood why they wouldn’t change everything just for me. This was a big expensive work-in-progress for them & the museum that I was completely unaware of. They put in a brand new state-of-the-art kitchen and were going to handle the catering for all the weddings there as well as all museum events. This was HUGE for a small locally owned, women-owned, very successful bakery. Nonetheless, I was sad still about it all.
Fast forward to the present day, there is a movie theater located in the art museum, and the inside bakery handles concessions for it. I am a huge art lover, a self-proclaimed wanna-be art history major, as I’ve previously discussed in my college blog post, and I am also a huge fan of Vincent Van Gogh. I’ve even painted a few copies of his portraits myself after being inspired by my visit to the Art Institute of Chicago for his Bedrooms exhibit. So naturally, when I found out the movie Loving Vincent would be shown at the museum, I HAD to be there. I should mention I’ve been contacting the PR for Loving Vincent like a true obsessed fan since I first found out about the project and film a more than 3 years before its release! What I would’ve given to be able to be a painter for the fully painted film!!
Anyway, to give some context, I haven’t been to a movie theater in years due to my peanut allergy worsening. The last movie I recall going to was a showing of Brooklyn (coincidentally the same actress lead who is in Loving Vincent) at a small theater in Louisville where movies go months after being released, so typically there are not as many people there. In total at Brooklyn there were only a handful of others, and I could literally see what they were eating and confirm it wasn’t peanut containing snacks, and if it is, I could leave or move far away and put my face mask on! On the other hand, Loving Vincent will be sold-out and at max-capacity. Basically, the antithesis of my Brooklyn movie theater experience.
I bought tickets a bit impulsively, since I knew it would sell out, and then moved on to contact the museum via e-mail about my options. The person in charge of Film, who I knew from working there, said I could come in during a school showing instead if I wanted. He let me know there may be one in the morning that I could sit in on, and he would let me know as more dates open up since he knows there wouldn’t be food concessions sold at those. I slightly wondered if the students may bring their own snacks, but was very appreciative of this offer as a back-up.
As I explained this to my husband, he suggested I go directly to the source, and contact the bakery/concessions to see if they may be able to make any accommodations. I felt nervous, but inquired with the bakery right away, asking if they knew if peanut items would be on the menu for the Loving Vincent showing, and if there may be a way to keep my day/time peanut-free items. THEY SAID YES, and they would pull peanut items and not use peanut products in anything that goes out that day/time to ensure my safety. Of course, they recommended I not eat anything they sell. I was already thinking multiple steps ahead of them, planning how I’d wipe my purse and pants and jacket down after the movie before getting into my car, how I’d be sure to not touch my hands to my face during the movie, and how I would throw my clothing into the wash as soon as I got home!
Once again, I learned that if I ask nicely and clearly for what I want, there was a chance I could be accommodated. It definitely doesn’t always happen, for example, the smaller movie theaters here wouldn’t consider pulling their peanut candy for me, but I get it because I’m sure it’s a huge money maker. I have to admit, I felt some sour energy with the bakery before this, due to my work experience and having to leave over it, but the air is clear now! I’m thrilled they will make this accommodation, and I will not abuse this knowledge. You’ll be happy to know that since then they have kept at least a dozen films peanut-free for me! All I do is email before seeing if it is a possibility. I do still wear my mask in, wipe my seat before sitting, and always keep my epinephrine within reach. If I have my mask on, I try to let myself relax more and not focus on what is being eaten directly around me, because people do still bring in their own food items. If I don’t have my mask on, if I’m feeling self-conscious of my mask with friends or something, I do have to be more aware of what is being eaten directly around me.
For allergic individuals out there reading, and their families and friends, please note that I always carry my epinephrine at all times, as well as at least 8-10 Benadryl tablets. My favorite face mask to wear is a 3M filter face mask so I’ll bring that along with me as a precaution, if possible, and bring wet wipes to wipe down my area, just as I did when I saw the movie Brooklyn at the other movie theater!
One thing I kept telling myself while waiting to hear back from the cinema and bakery was that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I couldn’t attend the showing. I’d be disappointed, sure, but ultimately it would eventually be on DVD or on a TV app where I could watch it in the comfort of my own living room! It isn’t worth the risk to have a reaction, so it’s always important to remember that in times of impulsiveness or feeling FOMO.
The reason I stopped going to the “regular” movie theater is because it’s not an environment able to be controlled like the Speed Art Museum Cinema. Not to say that the art museum cinema isn’t just as contaminated, it likely is, but it is less likely that someone will sit next to me and start eating candy with peanuts in it since the concessions are different. On occasion I’ve wanted to see a movie in the normal movie theater and will try to go on a less busy day, and will bring wet wipes to wipe my seat, and wear a N95 particle filtering face mask. This is my own personal precaution so I feel safe and less anxious. I do normally move seats if someone is eating near me, and I have had some experiences before where people have eaten peanut candy or brought in their own peanut butter jar & apple slices to the movie theater (I can’t make this stuff up, you guys!) and I’ll move as far away as possible, or leave if I want to! It’s all up to your preference and about keeping you safe, safety is the priority.
I’d love to hear about any experiences you’ve had with allergens at the movies, what precautions you take when attending the theater (or a similar venue), and if you’ve ever had accommodations made for you at a movie theater, and where and what those were!
Happy movie-watching! XO!