Why does the movie ticket taker hand you back half your ticket?

Dear Cecil:

Please answer a question I've been pondering for years. Why are we movie patrons handed back half our tickets after passing the ticket taker?

Cecil replies:

Cecil replies.:

For the patron, the stub is a simple receipt that works more or less like a raincheck does at the ballpark. In case of a major disaster (e.g., a projection breakdown) or personal problem (you become nauseated during You Light Up My Life), most theater managers will happily hand out passes for another night. But lest you take advantage of their good nature, the managers record, every hour on the hour, the number of the most recent ticket sold. By checking the number on your stub against the time you claim to have entered, the manager can tell whether or not you sat through You Light Up My Life twice before you decided you didn’t like it. The returned stubs are kept as a record of how many passes are handed out.

For the theater owner, his half of the ticket serves as a sort of inventory control. Every night the stubs are taken out of the ticket taker’s stand, sealed in a bag, and stored. This protects the owner against one of the oldest scams in the movie game: the usher who periodically palms an untorn ticket and resells it himself. Periodically, the sealed stubs are counted and checked against the box office records. If the numbers don’t match, the owner calls out the dogs.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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