Popcorn waterfall at the Ritz 5

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When you’re at the movies, bathroom breaks are tough. If you didn’t go before the show (too crowded) and can’t wait until after (even more crowded), picking an opportune moment to duck out isn’t easy. But also, there’s this important question: What do you do with your popcorn while you’re gone?

Apparently, a not insignificant number of people decide it’s a good idea to bring their snacks with them into the loo.

At least that’s the case at the Ritz 5. In the women’s bathroom at Landmark Theatres’ Society Hill cinema complex, which is right next to Zahav and Positano Coast and plays both art house and first-run films, hangs a prominent warning sign. It deals not with the sanitary implications about carrying open food containers into a public restroom, but about placement:

This hand dryer is motion activated
Please do not place your popcorn under the sensor

In the Ritz 5 ladies room Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

“It’s pretty impressive,” said Ritz 5 general manager Benjamin Schuler, who’s worked at the theater for 11 years. “[The hand dryer] forces all of the popcorn out. It just turns into a waterfall.”

There’s no comparable sign in the men’s room at the Ritz 5, because the location of the hand dryer is different. In the ladies room, Schuler explained, the motion-activated dryer is set all the way to the right at the end of the row of sinks, “right where you might set something down.”

Shout out to Ritz 5 employee Honor Devi Thapa for the assist Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Per Schuler, before the sign went up, customers would run into the hand dryer problem at least once a month. “You’d be surprised how many people would bring in popcorn and put it on the sink,” he said. “Then they would come out and tell us, ‘I accidentally put the popcorn there and it exploded!’”

In those cases, the theater would replace the popcorn (usually $6 to $7.25 each) at no charge. It wasn’t the expense that led to the warning sign, though — it was more of a customer service gesture. “People come here because they like the atmosphere, they like us,” Schuler noted.

And yet, even with the cautionary placard — which has been posted for over a year at this point — the issue persists.

“It still happens!” Schuler said, estimating the mishap now occurs perhaps once every four months. “People don’t read.”

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...