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Estimated reading time — 4 minutes
It’s not something whispered about in certain circles, it’s not something that comes in a plain-looking jewel case, it’s not by a nameless untraceable developer… and it’s certainly not supernatural.
The game in question is indeed called The Theatre (r before e), and was developed by a company called Salida Software. I’m fairly certain it’s an English company, despite the Spanish name. As far as I know, all they made was learning software (I have a maths suite from them somewhere around here), so The Theatre was probably meant to be some sort of edutainment game. The game was obviously never finished, probably from lack of funding or the whole company going under.
The description in the story is actually pretty accurate; it’s in a first-person perspective, with flat sprites in a 3D(ish) environment, and glitchy as hell. The Ticket Taker has an egg-shaped body, and one of his hands is huge and misshapen, I think to look like he’s reaching toward you for your ticket. The description of the Swirly Head Man is also accurate, just a glitched version of the Ticket Taker, but I saw a few people saying that he looks like Giygas… That’s not the case. The features of his face are just swirled, and are red because his lips are gigantic. I have absolutely no idea why this happens, because while there are a few character sprites in the game’s resources, that isn’t one of them. Oh, and just to clarify, the sprite is a bit creepy. That’s all. It’s not terrifying, it’s never filled me with a sense of dread, it’s just a bit creepy.
The game plays pretty much exactly as stated in the story; so accurately, in fact, that I think the author just downloaded it somewhere and decided to make a scary story of his experiences. I’ll admit that some things in it can be unsettling, but not OMG crap-yer-pants scary. Like I said, the game is unfinished, and very glitchy.
I think the idea is to select a movie from the posters on the wall, enter the theater, and play a minigame. The minigames are glitchy (and missing resources) to the point of being almost unplayable, but there doesn’t seem to be a time limit on any of them, so you just have to plow through until you’ve done something right enough times to be dumped into the lobby. What’s described in the story is what happens if you don’t select a movie; you’ll be allowed to enter the theater, but since the parameter of which game to load hasn’t been set you’ll just be dumped back into the lobby.
Here’s where it gets a bit weird. If you continue to enter the theater without choosing a movie, odd, sometimes creepy things WILL happen. I’m not sure why, but if I were to make an educated guess, it would be that glitching past the minigames like this causes variables to reach values that they weren’t meant to, resulting in things appearing where they shouldn’t. Or, y’know, the game is just glitched to hell and back. It’s been years, but here are some of the effects I can remember:
-The Swirly Head Man
-Movie posters appearing out of their frame
-Textures changing color
-Legitimately disturbing audio issue
The last two are obviously the most interesting ones. Sometimes you’ll spawn in a small room with a black floor and green walls, which will crash the game if touched. Sometimes you’ll appear in a room similar to the lobby, with a concession stand… kind of. There’s a woman behind the counter, with an incredibly poorly-drawn popcorn machine and soda fountain, but it’s all just an image on the wall. It’s basically just a big yellow concession stand mural. I don’t remember if you can interact with it or not.
The only character that appears worth talking about is a guy in a brown jacket, who appears on the sidewalk outside the lobby. Looking back, I don’t think the story mentioned this, but to the left of where you start out the wall is a row of glass doors looking out onto the street outside the theater. If you glitch past the minigames enough, a man in weird-looking jacket (I think it’s supposed to be tweed? it’s a mess) with a huge smile on his face will be just on the other side of the doors, staring at you. I mean a HUGE smile, like Freaky Fred or Spark Brushel (Google image search if you want).
…Actually, since he has the same body shape as the Ticket Taker, he looks a bit like the mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas. His smile isn’t creepy though, it’s just broad; what IS creepy are his eyes. While the Ticket Taker, ashtray, and other sprites will always face you, the smiling guy is anchored in place like one of the walls. His eyes, however, are always staring right at you. Just thinking about that gives me chills… Okay, okay, while there’s nothing overtly scary or supernatural about the game itself, that’s one thing that I will admit legitimately scares me. Like a porcelain doll…
Ahem. That’s pretty much all there is to The Theatre. If you can find it somewhere, I’d recommend downloading it just to see what it’s like. Oh! One thing I’d forgotten… As stated in the story, getting the thing to run is, to say the least, difficult. I think someone got a hold of all of the code and resources and just compiled it and added their own installer or something. Again, there’s nothing paranormal about the installation, it just doesn’t work well.
Publisher’s Note: The author of the original tale, “The Theater,” is unknown. The story as featured here was transcribed from a 4Chan /x/ screenshot. For more like this, please see the “Video Game Hoaxes and Urban Legends” thread on the Something Awful forums.