- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2006

As moviegoers carrying popcorn passed behind him, a man in his early 20s looked over an ad for the newly released “Rocky Balboa” film starring Sylvester Stallone.

“How many more do you think he’s got?” he asked a friend standing next to him. “There’s going to be a nursing home ‘Rocky.’ … He’s going to be fighting orderlies.”

It’s another weekend evening at the Majestic Cinema 20 in downtown Silver Spring, where about 5,000 customers will spend the Friday night before Christmas.

Standing near the entrance to the theaters is David Kussner, the manager since the Majestic opened three years ago as part of the revitalization of the downtown area.

What started as a high school job ushering customers to their seats has turned into a 32-year career for the Detroit native.

“I just enjoyed it and stayed with it,” said Mr. Kussner, 49.

He said the Majestic has been the top of his career.

“It’s certainly the biggest theater,” he said.

It’s also the top-performing theater in the portfolio of Consolidated Theatres of Charlotte, N.C.

He occasionally uses a dustpan and small broom to sweep up popcorn kernels or napkins that drop to the carpeted floor.

A boy who lost his hat approaches to ask for the lost-and-found.

“It’s over at guest services,” Mr. Kussner said, pointing toward a booth next to the theater’s long staircase and escalators.

He said “dealing with customers” is what he likes best about his job. “That’s what’s really kept me going.”

The greatest frustration comes from “the discipline of the staff and if I have to terminate a staff person,” he said.

The theater operates with 95 employees, 10 of them full time. Nearly all the others are high school students earning a little money on the side.

Only occasionally does his job break from a steady routine, such as the time a customer fatally shot another in 1982 at a theater he managed in Detroit.

After a personality dispute erupted into an argument, “one ran home and got a gun and we had a shooting in the lobby,” he said.

Other occasions are more upbeat. During a June 2005 ceremony at a Marriott Hotel in Friendship Heights, Mr. Kussner accepted an award as “Employer of the Year” from Marriott Foundation’s Bridges program and shook the hand of first lady Laura Bush. The program encourages employers to hire disabled and underprivileged young people to help them start their careers.

Mr. Kussner became a film buff when he started in the theater industry but now calls himself “average,” viewing two movies a week.

“I still enjoy the movies but I don’t watch them as intensely as I used to,” he said.

His days off are Thursdays and Sundays.

Mr. Kussner typically rises about 7 a.m. and arrives at work at 9 a.m. He starts his workday by reviewing ticket sale and concession reports from the previous day. Ticket sales determine how many staff members he assigns.

He then checks the theater’s newspaper ads to ensure they display the correct times and listings for movies and looks at payroll reports to determine whether employees were paid properly.

He answers e-mails from his home office at Consolidated Theatres, “makes the cashier banks” by stocking the sales office with change for customers, updates movie listings on the company’s Web site and checks the projectionist’s schedule to ensure the right movies are in each of the 20 theaters.

“Then I’ll walk the entire building,” Mr. Kussner said, inspecting for cleanliness and making sure the equipment is operating.

The Majestic usually begins its schedule at 11:30 a.m. but opens an hour earlier during peak times, such as the holiday season.

The rest of his day normally involves tending to customers’ concerns.

“A lot of the time is spent out on the main floor,” Mr. Kussner said.

He normally goes home about 6 p.m. but sometimes stays as late as closing time at 1 a.m.

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