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How Dirty Is It At The Movie Theater?

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – With so many of us going to the movies on any given night,  CBS4 News wondered how dirty are the theaters we visit.

They may look clean, but what types of bacteria are lurking in our favorite movie theaters?  And what about all those things in the theaters our families touch?

NSU Microbiologist Dr. Julie Torruellas-Garica says it’s a question that’s always in the back of a parent’s mind.  “What if the person who touched the kiosk before you did was sick?  What if they coughed on their hands and touched it and then you go and touch it?”

Dr. Torruellas-Garcia and her students evaluated samples from popular theaters in both counties.  “We found that bacteria grew in almost every spot.”   But, surprisingly, our local theaters turned out to be in rather good shape.

No bacteria was found growing on the 3D glasses that are handed out to patrons.

The metal railing CBS4 tested in one Broward theater also passed inspection.   “Those railings are not conducive to bacterial growth so you wouldn’t expect too much bacteria to be growing on metal surfaces.”

The cloth seats in the theaters also checked out.  “The seats didn’t have much on them,” said Dr. Torruellas-Garcia.   There areas of biggest concern were the cup holders in each seat.  “The cup holder had quite a bit of growth.  We found different species of bacteria growing there, include staph,” she said.

Swabs of theater floors in both Miami-Dade and Broward Counties found the presence of E-Coli bacteria, which can lead to stomach problems.

“Imagine people are stepping in who knows what and walking around with their shoes on, so they could have deposited e-coli from the ground,” said the Doctor.   “This can spread infection.”

Another area of concern was the self-service ticket kiosks.   “There was quite a bit of bacteria on them,” said Dr. Torruellas-Garica.

But all that bacteria is not necessarily a bad thing.  Scientists say exposure helps us build resistance to bad bacteria.  “Overall, the movie theaters were tested weren’t too bad,” said Dr. Torruellas-Garcias. “ I was actually impressed!”

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