/ Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Sky-high cinema snack prices – do they leave a bad taste?

When I went to the cinema last week, I knew two things – one, that it would be hard to take Ryan Reynolds seriously in a gritty thriller – and two, that the cinema snacks would be overpriced.

So, I was interested to read the case of Joshua Thompson, who is suing his local AMC. This American cinema chain has banned the consumption of food and drinks bought elsewhere, and charged Joshua $8 for a coke and a packet of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts – nearly three times the $2.73 he would have paid at a nearby fast food restaurant.

Suing your cinema may be a step too far, but it does make you wonder how cinema chains have reached these over-inflated prices.

Corn blimey, that’s expensive

Cinemas are obliged to split any revenue from ticket sales with the film studios, but the money they make from selling food is all theirs to keep. Therefore, although snacks make up 20% of a cinema’s revenue, they bring in 40% of its profits. In fact, a box of popcorn apparently brings in a not-insubstantial 85% profit for cinemas.

Now, popcorn isn’t the most complex or expensive snack to prepare – heat up some corn kernels and add sugar or salt, depending on your preference (sugary for me, please!). And with the bulk quantities cinemas buy, the cost of kernels will be cheaper than you or I could get.

So it seems a little unfair we’re being charged this big a mark-up to indulge our sweet tooth, and cinemas are so adamantly against you bringing your own.

Do snacks subsidise ticket prices?

So why do they do it? Cinemas seem to charge on the basis that they would otherwise make a loss if their profits were based on ticket sales alone – and it’s even been suggested that the high price of popcorn actually benefits cinema goers by holding down the price of the ticket.

But I still think tickets are expensive enough to warrant a little scrimping on food and drink. And let’s not forget that, as our research shows, the average cinema snack is very calorific – should we be vilified for taking a healthy option, like fruit?

Of course, the easy answer is to not buy snacks at all – no-one’s forcing you to. But if you’re partial to popcorn with your movie experience, it would be good not to feel ripped off as a result. After all, if cinema chains are as keen to avoid people bringing in their own food as they seem to be, then maintaining such high prices can’t be the most persuasive approach.

If cinema snacks remain so expensive, I may be forced to risk ‘smuggling’ in my snacks from a nearby supermarket instead. Do you think the prices charged for cinema snacks are fair?

How do you buy your cinema snacks?

I bring snacks into the cinema from outside (48%, 86 Votes)

I don't eat snacks in the cinema (40%, 72 Votes)

I buy snacks from the cinema itself (12%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 179

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Considering that many adults are overweight or obese and many children are heading for the same problem, why should we eat or drink while we are watching a film for a couple of hours?

Springheeledjim says:
24 March 2012

I’ve come over to this thread to let off steam ( I’ve been getting very irate with some idiots on another one ) and also to say that ( this time ) I completely agree with the post. Cinema snacks are ridiculously priced.

It’s not our fault if they don’t make enough money from the film rights; they should negotiate harder with the distributors.

There is no way I’m paying £20 for snacks ( I have two kids, so if the three of us go then it’s at least two big tubs of popcorn and two large drinks ) when I’m already paying the same for the cinema tickets.

I buy a couple of cans and some bagged sweets from the supermarket ( less than £5 all told ) and smuggle them in. And I’ll continue to do so until cinema chains make their snack pricing reasonable.

And now I’ll go back to the other thread where people are complaining about being ripped off by supermarkets. Seriously, when it comes to rip offs cinemas are the real experts. Well, cinemas and motorway services…..

Airports Jim, don’t forget the Airports.

Springheeledjim says:
24 March 2012

Airports ! Grrrrrr !

Just come back from the cinema ( Hunger games; not bad actually ) and feel very satisfied that the kids and I managed to smuggle our snacks in.

My real bugbear though – are the idiots who talk all the way through the film. Not happy.

Its surprising how anyone selling things in RipOff Britain can just claim supply and demand, when we all know it’s just greed.

Most of the rubbish sold as food in cinemas is disgusting, makes a smell, and leaves a mess. In my opinion the bucket is the right place for popcorn! The noise of people munching, slurping, and gurgling down their straws is so off-putting we only go the the cinema occasionally to view a must-see film. As a tribe, devoted cinema-goers [who allegedly are mad about Film] certainly know how to ruin other people’s experiences; their animalistic eating behaviour is consistent with their urge to talk during the film, flick through their smart-phone apps, send texts, throw their legs across the seats, and stand up in front of you and make a noise as they leave during the credits. Sadly, some of the more mature audience also have some pretty unappealing habits. The cinema chains pander to this market as without this madding crowd the picture houses would be empty – as it is they struggle to get up to double figures in some of the screens sometimes. Anyway, to get back on topic, I have never seen anybody being apprehended for consuming food or drink bought off the premises and I think there would be trouble if the stewards even tried to stop it. As for the prices, they’re probably no worse than pubs charging a couple of quid for a glass of cola – it just goes with the territory.

I can understand the need for some kind of rehydration whilst sitting for 2 hours in an air conditioned cinema, but have never been able to get my head around the need to munch through a film.

I think snack serving started as a way for the cinemas to make extra money, but we have now been conditioned to accept this as the cinema experience.

If you must eat on these occasions, retire to an eatery afterwards and enjoy discussing the film over a meal costing maybe half of the price of the highly nutritious ‘pop corn, hot dog & soda’ you would have paid through the nose to punish your digestive system with.

If a cinema wants to show a film from launch day they will pay upto 80% of the ticket prices to the distributor – little room to negotiate.
No wonder they keep the ticket prices low and the food prices high , when an extra £1 on the ticket price = extra 20p on the food price.

don’t forget the “admin” surcharges too!

Pure profiteering

It’s interesting that you raise the point of ‘smuggling’ in your own food – I’ve had perfectly innocent bags of shopping confiscated before films by staff in fear that it may contain food items.

I always questioned whether it’s right that they enforce these rules so strictly, as far as taking your bags off you, but what can you do – you’ve already bought your cinema ticket!

When you recover the bag, tell them the bundle of money you had in there is missing 🙂

The prices for cinema food and drink are extortionate, no wonder people smuggle their own snacks in.

Ken Grahame says:
7 April 2012

ABSOLUTELY take your own food in, and I love the suggestion from “M” to turn the tables should they confiscate your bag.
I have to report that just for once though, it’s not just in rip-off Britain. We have an old friend in Spain, who helped rebuild our house there, and when we took him to a modern cinema near Malaga for his first cinema visit in decades, he was truly shocked to be charged 18 Euros for a couple of cokes and popcorn. Sad to say, we had seen it all before here, and just saddened to see the ugly face of greed over there.

Andy Wills says:
16 June 2012

It cost me £33 to go to the cinema with my girlfriend last night. it was £19 for 2 tickets, & £14 for 2 small cokes and 2 small bags of popcorn.

I think that cinema’s are outpricing themselves and shooting themselves in the foot, because when I was a boy if I saw a good movie I often went back to see it again or even twice over.

Now no one can afford to do this at the prices cinema’s charge now, that’s why most people now days are buying big screen T.Vs with surround sound to try and recreate the cinema experience in their own homes as in the long run this will eventually work out cheeper.

I think that if cinema prices continue the way they are going people will stop going to cinema’s altogether and cinema’s will eventually die out, which will be a shame because not even big screen T.V with surround sound is the same as seeing a movie on the big screen at the cinema, not forgeting the audience participaction side also.

ops2013 says:
13 May 2015

I laughed at the cashier, i haven’t been to Galaxy since internet offers free movies but i got a gift card for mothers day, i go and buy my tickets head to the food line look at the girl and said really 15$ 20$ are you guys nuts? I got 2 kids packs ..which FYI is not on the sighns only on the online menu !! She looked at me like i had 5 eyes, and the Coffee Sucks!! Unlesss i really want to see a movie id never go back!

But Avengers was awesome! But Galaxy Cinema is such a scam!