The great movie food racket
A Michigan moviegoer's lawsuit over the high cost of food and drinks at theater concessions has put a spotlight on a favorite consumer gripe.
Is a Michigan man a hero to moviegoers everywhere since he sued an AMC theater over the high cost of movie concession snacks?
Joshua Thompson of Livonia -- who paid $8 total for a box of Goobers and a Coke at his local AMC -- filed the lawsuit because "he got tired of being taken advantage of," his attorney said.
The suit accused AMC theaters of violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by charging grossly excessive prices for snacks.
The suit seeks refunds for customers who were overcharged, a civil penalty against the theater chain and any other relief Judge Kathleen Macdonald might grant.
Two experts interviewed by the Freep predicted the suit wouldn't stand up in court for legal reasons that aren't related to the snack markup. But the much-publicized lawsuit has focused attention on a favorite consumer gripe.
The Hollywood Reporter added to the debate:
Exactly how much do movie theaters make on concessions? According to one Morningstar equity analyst, of every dollar spent on candy and soda in movie theaters, 85% is pure profit. Another review of the business of selling popcorn reveals that $30 worth of raw popcorn is worth as much as $3,000 to movie theaters.
(Post continues below.)
Theater owners have said the concession prices are justified because they make so little from ticket sales. From a post we wrote after AMC banned outside snacks in 2009:
"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."
Movie theaters have the right to set the price of snacks. Does that mean we have to pay those outrageous prices?
We have some suggestions:
- Bring your own, which means sneaking since many of the big theater chains have banned outside snacks. Lawsuit plaintiff Thompson, who is in his 20s, used to bring food with him until AMC posted a sign about the ban. It's up to your conscience whether this is frugal, cheap or even unethical.
- Don't buy the snacks. How difficult is this to do? If you value your health, you'll avoid buttered movie popcorn and a lot of the other unhealthy stuff they sell.
- Offset the cost of snacks with a discounted or free movie. Join the theater loyalty club or take advantage of other special offers, advises Kelli B. Grant in a post on SmartMoney.
- Stay home. And apparently many do. Movie attendance hit a 16-year low in 2011, with only 1.28 billion tickets sold.
- Suck it up and pay the price. We suspect many people will continue to buy the high-priced snacks and complain all the way to their seats.
Why? Brad Tuttle at Time offers one possible explanation:
So, um, is it smart to ask customers to pay $8 for something that costs less than $3 a short walk away? I suppose it is, so long as your customers are stupid enough to agree to pay up.
More on MSN Money:
Let's see, I'm an old geezer and when I was a kid could get into the movies for 25 cents, I believe. Back then my dad made about $300 a month, a pretty good wage. Today, movies cost roughly 50 times more...but are people earning 50 times more, or around $15,000 a month? I think not.
Just goes to show you how ridiculously twisted and overinflated things are in the film industry..
I might add that today's actors who charge $10-plus million a picture aren't nearly as talented as those of yesteryear. No comparison. Just a bunch of pretty faces who are way over-indulged.
Lovely Brazil123: must you make a derogatory comment about Americans?
You make a point but too bad you had to ruin it with a sweeping, negative generalization.
About a year ago my wife wanted....REALLY wanted...a cup of coffee at the theater. It was $4.75. It had been a very long time since I had purchased anything to eat/drink at a theater and that was, in fact, the LAST time I purchased anything. I would rather go without than feel like I've been robbed.
As is often this case, this comes down to exercising a measure of self control or self discipline, simply refusing to cave in to what many feel is the outrageous overpricing of snacks. If more and more folks didn't buy, the pricing would come down. If it worked (and it did) with gasoline prices (and that is a necessity for most people), it would work with snacks.
Kudos to Mr. Thompson!
I have not gone to the movies in years in my own little protest of exorbitant pricing: never in my wildest dreams did I envison movie tickets would be $11.00 - $15.00.
It is an indulgence I can do without but for those that can't, eating ahead of time is perfect and I'm a huge proponent of bringing in your snacks. Don't much care for theatres that try to block outside snacks.
Funny how no price too high for entertainment ( sports, movies, electronics, politicians etc.) but listen to the howls when it comes time to pay our TEACHERS, POLICE & FIREMEN and especially our S O L D I E R S.
Time to examine our priorities as a nation.
And now we know why I no longer attend these movies and have not since about 1990. Lets work on fuel and auto pricing now!!!!!!!!
As long as we are willing to pay, the cost will remain high. STOP spending and the cost will fall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
No basis for a lawsuit (or a "news" story). Some people want to sue everyone they disagree with, and I am so tired of their complaining.
Is this clown also going to sue 7-11 because their prices are so much higher than Wal Mart?
Besides, how long is the typical movie, anyway? Are you telling me people can't do without snacks for a couple of hours at a time?
Sorry for the rant, but this guy seriously needs to get a life.
Some theatre's are known for serving soft drinks that are intentionally flat., plus they're over priced
Ah, such unreasonable customers wanting a decent product at an affordable price. Cinsidering most theatres I know are restraunts that happen to show films, you gotta wonder how they stay in business. (chicken fingers for 4 with drinks equals 60 bucks at the theatre and is half price down the mall at the food court, and seriously, chinken fingers at the movies?)
I used to sneak food in, then they started the no outside bag policy, now I agree, if you can't not eat for two hours, you are the reason for the obestiy problem in America today.
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