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AMC theaters ban outside snacks

Will the new policy change your eating habits at the movies?

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 3:32PM

One of our more popular posts was about a question asked by Frugal Dad: Is sneaking candy into the movie theater frugal or cheap?


That question comes to mind again now that theater giant AMC Entertainment Inc. has banned outside food and drinks at all of its 304 theater complexes after testing the idea at several locations. If you want to eat or drink during the film, you’ve got to buy your grub at the overpriced concession stand. Regal Entertainment, the nation’s largest theater chain, also bans outside food.


How does that sit with you? Will it affect your movie-going experience? A poll of readers at showed that 79% “hate” the new policy.

People who commented in a Kansas City Star story about the new ban provided some possible options:


Accept the policy. Going to the movies is fun, and relatively inexpensive if you pick the matinee.


If you must have popcorn, kill the craving by eating it at home before you go, says Charlie at Pay Less for Food. Plus, your heart will be happier, Charlie observed.


According to a new study by Center for Science in the Public Interest, consuming a medium popcorn and medium soda sold at Regal cinemas is like eating three Quarter Pounders topped with 12 pats of butter. Both Regal and AMC, which is based in KC, cook their popcorn in coconut oil. Cinemark uses canola oil, which is much better for you.


Sneak food in. “We’re going to have to start bringing bigger purses,” one movie-goer said. AMC hasn’t said what it will do when it catches violators (although making them eat the theater popcorn would seem like punishment if you value heart health).


If you decide to break the rule, The Pitch offers some suggestions:

Do not sneak in anything that could leak (open containers), makes your pockets or purse suspiciously lumpy (20-ounce sodas don't fit inside of anything), has a strong odor (tuna fish), makes excessive noise (crinkly bag, aluminum wrapper, potato chips), is patently obvious (a sack from Burger King), or could leave you sitting with a lap full of cheese and hot sauce (Taco Bell).

Buck it up and buy the theater food. AMC said it’s going to offer greater variety. Some of its theaters have French toast and Thai coconut chicken tenders on the menu.


AMC won’t explain why it changed the policy, but it’s suspected that the chain is trying to recover from falling movie attendance and fewer sales at the snack bar. Theaters make much of their profit from selling candy, popcorn, pop, etc.


Kansas City Business Journal says, “On Nov. 12, AMC reported that decreased attendance had caused it to dip into the red in the second quarter on 5% lower revenue compared with the same period last year.”


We recommend that you let your conscience be your guide.


“You are not really paying for the movie when you buy a ticket. A certain percentage goes to the studio, and then we have to pay for the double-high ceilings, the digital equipment,” Screenland theaters owner Butch Rigby told The Star. “Yes, it is more expensive to buy a candy bar in a movie theater, but you are paying for the experience. We do most of our profits, if not all, on concessions. You wouldn’t take an entree into a restaurant.”


Related reading:

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