According to movie theaters, outside food is not allowed. You can understand why. After all, they only make about 25-30% of ticket sales the first few weeks a movie is out and that amount can vary, depending on the deal the studios set up and how big of a blockbuster the movie is.
When was the last time you visited a small town, single screen theater? I would be surprised if any of you have recently. While single screen theaters may still exist in very rural America, the norm today is a huge theater with multi-screens and big overhead and employees.
This means that concessions and those annoying ads that have taken over our precious pre-movie viewing time (for those of us who are early to everything) are a necessity for theaters to cover their costs.
$8 for a Popcorn? Seriously?
While I appreciate that the theaters need to make money if they are going to stay open, and concession stand food has always been a bit pricier than say buying a hot dog from the local Circle K, there has been a trend in the last few years of doubling and then tripling the price of that already overpriced food.
Different theater chains have different rates, but here locally we had Great Escape Theaters, which was bought out by Regal. When Great Escape was in charge, ticket prices were a bit lower and concession prices were most definitely lower.
A large popcorn with a free refill was huge and easily fed our family of four with a refill to take home for later. It was $4.50. Kind of pricey for something you can make at home for pennies, but I would pay it for the experience.
Now? A large popcorn is $8 and only feeds two people. That’s right. It costs more and is smaller.
The price of everything else went up across the board as well. Now, instead of taking my girls to the movies for around $50 for tickets and snacks, it is about $42.00 for the tickets and another $30 for snacks.
Pricing People Out of Buying
This prices people out of buying snacks, because on top of the cost of movie tickets going up, we have to pay more for the gasoline to get there, for the groceries to cook breakfast and lunch and everything else in our lives.
In case you haven’t figured it out from reading my blog already, I am cheap. I do not like to waste money. While I might not be the best money manager in the world, paying $8 for something I can make for under $1 is just not in my nature.
Don’t get me started on the cost of the candy. $4 for a small box of Milk Duds that I can buy for $1 at any drug store or grocery.
Drinks? My theater charges over $5 for a large drink, but I can get one refill. Gee. Nice of them. They pay pennies for the cups and pennies for the beverage. Even with overhead figured in, they are making a nice profit on drinks.
In addition, the snacks in the theater are not healthy for someone who tries to follow a low-carb diet. At our theater anyway, there are no sugar free candy options, no nuts, no bunless food options (unless you want to gnaw on a hot dog) and no fruit or vegetable choices. While healthy snacks might not be a first choice, if theaters would offer a small container of fresh berries or peanuts, they might sell more items to those trying to watch what they eat.
In addition, many theaters add chemicals to popcorn to make it smell so good that you just have to have some. That popcorn may not be as fresh as you think. Some theaters get their popcorn pre-made and simply place it in warmers.
So, People Like Me Sneak Food In
I adore going to the movies. It is one of my favorite things to do. However, the only time I can go often coincides with dinner time or lunch time. I need something to at least tide me over and I can eat when the movie is out.
So, yes, I do sneak in a bottled water and a bag of nuts. If the kids are with me, I do put candy in my purse for them. If I am starving, I may drive through somewhere and sneak that in.
A few towns still have drive-in theaters. The concessions tend to be a little cheaper from my experience with our nearby drive-in. Also, the cost of getting in is less and you typically get to watch two movies instead of just one. You can make a night of it, which is fun for the whole family.
Red box is an amazing thing. Sign up for their texts and from time-to-time you will get a code for a free rental or a discount of some sort. Even if you don’t have a code, it’s only $1.28 to rent a movie for one night.
With the money you’ll save $50/pop for most families just for movie theater tickets, you can quickly save up enough to buy a 60-inch screen to watch the movies on. Plus, you can make healthy snacks and invite as many of your kids friends or family members to join you as you’d like. This can be a lot more fun than going to the theater alone as long as you don’t have one of those “talker” kid in the group that everyone has to shush repeatedly and keeps you from hearing the movie. Don’t invite them next time, if you can help it, or use duct tape before the movie starts – just kidding – well, maybe.
Is It Morally Wrong to Sneak Food?
That’s a good question. Remember that this is a rule the theater has made up to benefit their pocketbook. It isn’t a law. It isn’t written in the Bible that “thou shalt not take outside food into the movies”. It is their rule. You can choose to break it and they can choose to make you throw it away if they catch you. I guess in a stretch, they might ask you to leave, but I seriously doubt they would do this. I’ve only ever seen them make people throw things away before they go into the movie and only when they see them carrying something out in the open. I’ve never seen them search a purse, although if you carry in a huge backpack on wheels that might tip them off. The key is to be subtle, have the girls all carry a purse and divide things up.
You may think sneaking in food to a theater is just kind of wrong. That the theater deserves to make the money they do off concessions. You certainly are entitled to that opinion. Keep paying your $8 for popcorn and I’ll munch on my healthier version that cost me about 50 cents because I brought it from home; my kids will eat their $1 boxes of candy that are identical to the ones you paid $4.50 for.