'Joker': Student Banned From AMC Theaters for "No Singles Policy" Prank

A fake flyer posted to Twitter caused confusion — and led to one patron getting a letter from the theater's security department.

Given the mild cultural panic surrounding the Oct. 4 release of Todd Phillips' Joker, it's fair to speculate that theater security and guest services departments have had a rough couple weeks and were on edge going into last weekend. A student at Cal State Long Beach decided to test their patience anyhow, and got hit with a lifetime ban for his efforts.

On the night of Oct. 3, Twitter user @jinpayn — who declined to share his first name with The Hollywood Reporter but whose last name is Payne — posted a photo of a flyer taped to a ticket kiosk outside the AMC Orange 30 cinema in Orange, California, that read, "Please note: We are enforcing a strict NO SINGLES POLICY for tonight's showings of JOKER due to safety precautions. We will not be admitting anyone without an additional partner." "Great, I can’t see @jokermovie because I’m here alone. Wtf @amctheaters?" he tweeted

The flyer was not real — it was created by Payne as a joke and references an old 4chan meme — and AMC was not amused.

The replies to Payne's tweet are peppered with users @'ing AMC Guest Services to inquire whether the policy is real, and "Elizabeth" from AMC Guest Services responding that no, the policy is not real.

"So sorry for any confusion. This sign was not posted by us, and this is not our policy. The sign was removed as soon as it was found by the theatre team," read several dozen replies from @AMCHelps, the first of which was posted at 9:05 Friday morning. (As of Tuesday, AMC was still responding to credulous inquiries about the flyer.) 

Despite AMC blowing up his spot, over the weekend Payne continued to engage with Twitter users who still believed the prank was real. When one user suggested Payne "make a friend that's going to see the movie and get in?" he responded, "I’m not good at that."

Another fake sign that appeared Friday afternoon at the ArcLight Hollywood — referencing another, semi-related 4chan meme — was actually inspired by Payne's prank after comedians Nick Ciarelli and Brad Evans saw his tweet and thought his fake sign was real.

On Monday, though, about an hour after Elizabeth from AMC Guest Services posted her last "So sorry for any confusion," Payne posted a letter from AMC's vp security banning him from its theaters, tweeting, "Oh and they say cancel culture isn’t real? Just got canceled from AMC for a joke. (This is real)." The letter also included a detailed account of his movements on Thursday night: "At 10:37 pm, you were spotted placing an unauthorized sign by the ticket kiosk. … You then took a picture of the sign, took the sign down and posted a photo to Twitter. About 12:58 am, you were seen approaching the automated box offices, putting the same sign on the glass and exited the building."

Payne isn't sure exactly how AMC security managed to track him down, but he says it was probably pretty easy: "It’s not like I felt the need to cover my tracks at the time." It's clear from the letter that the theater reviewed security footage, so it would have been easy to ID him from the code he used to print his tickets at the kiosk. Though he also says he'd previously contacted guest services via the same Twitter account he used to post the picture and given them his contact information, so, probably an easy solve either way.

There was some speculation that the letter may have been another fake — just an extension of the joke — especially since Payne's subsequent tweeted apology, composed in the iOS Notes app, included a grocery list and was quite obviously an extension of the joke. But THR has confirmed the letter is indeed real.

So, was it worth it? For the lulz?

"I don’t do anything for the lulz because I’m not that type of meme loser, so I guess it wasn’t really worth it," says Payne, "but I was having fun with it at the time so I don’t know. It was kinda just something for my friends to laugh about. The theater no-singles policy has been a long-running joke online and has evolved to other more absurd claims such as a singles tax, theater metal detectors, theater penis inspection, etc. So I joke about that with them — and I do go to the movies alone so I’ve always found the joke funny."

As for whether and how he plans to possible get around the ban? "I unfortunately can’t grow much facial hair, so I will have to resort to either sitting on another guy in a trench coat or wearing grouch glasses.

"Also, for the record," adds Payne, "I don’t think I’m a 'victim of cancel culture.' A lot of people missed that was facetious."