No Outside Food or Drink
May 19, 2008, 1:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Iron Man was a lot of fun. Tony Stark … the anti-hero, nice. Not my point though.

We went to lunch the day after seeing Iron Man and my brother posed an interesting question. I’m sure it’s been argued time and time again but here it is.

Is it wrong to stop by the gas station or Target or wherever to load up on goodies before you go to the Movie Theater where they post a sign that says “No Outside Food or Drink” and then price gouge you for your first born child for a box of Reese’s Pieces?


16 Comments so far
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Taking the candy in is wrong, and so is buying it at the movie theaters. The first is breaking a “rule”, if we can call it that. And the second is being a terrible steward with your money. A $4 box of candy and a $5 soda? I’m sure I can do without.

I guess my only question is this: Do the signs at the theater say, “Please no outside food/drink” or do they say, “No outside food/drink allowed” ? Ignoring a polite request doesn’t bother me as much since they are obviously ruthless in their price gouging and don’t deserve the courtesy.

Actually, now that I think about it, I’m not even sure if they can legally prevent you from bringing in outside food/drink. It may be one of those psychological things. “If we post this sign, most people will attempt to adhere to it, and those who don’t we aren’t allowed to stop them.”

Comment by Lucas Knisely

Thanks for the comment.

That is exactly what I am talking about. There is no “law” banning me from bringing candy into the theater. The policy of the theater is to ban ouside food and price gouge inside. It’s a request not a law and I’m not buying into it.

Comment by acts2forty2

I agree that it is not a law but a policy. They can refund your ticket and send you away, but they can not do anything other than that.

Our theater is in a mall, so everyone has bags when they go in. It’s all ok.

Comment by Vinny

Thanks for the comment Vincenzo!

I totally agree if they want to refund my ticket price that’s one thing but it IS NOT a law.

The days of the Mall movie theater were great, Hit Ben and Jerry’s for a waffle cone on the way in to the theater…nice

Comment by acts2forty2

i’m amused by all your talk of “law” and legality. Every private business in the world has rules. Many of those rules are not laws, but have to be obeyed anyway if you wish to patronize that business. If you don’t want to follow the rules, don’t patronize the business, plain and simple. But to disregard any rule that isn’t a “law” is absolutely absurd.

Comment by Zap

Zap, thanks for your two cents.

I am not swayed by your argument but I appreciate you joining the discussion. I think that because the rule exists solely to price gouge and it is not illegal to bring a bag of Reese’s Pieces into the theater that it is my right to do so.

On another note, it has been a couple of weeks … Hulk was pretty good and Kung Fu Panda was a riot!

Comment by acts2forty2

Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

cheers, Sideswipe!

Comment by Sideswipe

Sideswipe, thanks for the “pop-in.”

Comment by acts2forty2

My perspective on the topic is unique, because i work at a movie theater – but not a multiplex. i am the manager of an independent small-town theater.

Believe me, i can understand why you would sneak your own candy into the multiplex. And since they’re my competition, i certainly don’t mind 😉 But i can’t believe that price is the only reason why people do it, because they do it to me too.

My tickets are $5 for all seats, and i have the same concession items that the chains have, at less than half the price. You can get a small popcorn, small soda and a box of candy for $4.25 at my theater. The multiplexes in my area charge $9.25 for a ticket, and they would charge you nearly $10 for the same concession items.

Yet my customers still sneak their own food in! So it can’t just be the price.

But i’m going off-topic a bit. The question here was whether or not it was wrong to sneak your own food into a movie theater. Here are my observations…

-It isn’t right, because it’s against the rules.

-It isn’t right, because the theater requires concession revenue to continue to stay in business. i can elaborate more on this if you wish.

-Because we run an independent small-town theater, we sort of hope that the locals will support us by purchasing their concession from us, rather than sneak it in. But a lot of them do sneak it in, and that isn’t right.

-i have also noticed that the majority of customers who sneak their own food in are very messy and leave their garbage all over the floor. Customers who buy their food from the concession stand make a mess as well, but the percentage is much smaller. And while i don’t particularly enjoy picking garbage up off the floor, at least i know that the customers who bought their food from the concession stand supported us. The customers who smuggled their own food in not only didn’t support the theater, but then made me clean up after them. And to me, that is not right.

i’m actually very lenient though. Even though we have “ABSOLUTELY NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR BEVERAGES PERMITTED BEYOND THIS POINT” posted with our theater policies, i don’t say anything to the customers who i observe in the auditorium breaking the rules. We run a friendly theater, and i don’t want to risk alienating anyone.

My only exception is that i do not allow restaurant food to be eaten in the theater. When i open the door to the auditorium and all i can smell are the onions on someone’s hoagie or the chinese food that someone smuggled in, i feel that i have to do something, because that sort of food is a distraction that interferes with the movie experience of every other customer. And as absurd as it sounds, this sort of thing is becoming more and more of a problem. Ten years ago, it never even came up. Five years ago, it was a problem every few months or so. But it seems like i have to deal with this on a weekly basis these days.

If you want to sneak your own popcorn or candy into my theater, as long as you don’t flaunt it in my face, i won’t say anything. But if you want dinner and a movie, try them in that order, not at the same time.

And i’ve apparently been typing for about a half and hour. Time flies when you’re ranting. Let me know what you think about what i’ve written.

Comment by Zap

Zap, thanks again for joining in.

You are now getting where I wanted to go from the beginning.

Right or wrong? Two wrongs don’t make a right, yada yada, its candy at the movies. I don’t know how far that goes I will search it out in my conscience.

However, you have hit the nail on the head!

We have a small theater in town and if I go there I will always buy my concessions there. I am all about supporting the “mom and pop” small town businesses.

I also understand that production companies get the box office revenue and that concessions makes the theater all of its profit. That is why I always buy the $5 Cherry Coke at the theater no matter which one I go to.

MY point is simply this, I will do fair business if you do fair business. The major chain theaters are way below board when it comes to this. Making a rule that allows one to do unfair business doesn’t make the person who realizes that wrong, it makes them intelligent to do otherwise. Just like the man who buys milk at the gas station because its “convenient.” The wise man plans ahead and buys it while grocery shopping to save that buck as well.

What’s really funny is that the movies seems to be the only place this happens. Bowling allies, theme parks, the boardwalk/beach all either allow you to bring your own food or charge a reasonable price for their product even though you are a captive audience.

Comment by acts2forty2

i went to the multiplex to see Hulk this weekend with my brother, because he couldn’t wait any longer. We bought a large popcorn, a small soda and a bottle of water. The total was $13.25. Outrageous. At my theater, the same items would cost you $5.25

Hulk was great, BTW.

Did you know that in the early days of movies, most theaters prohibited food entirely? They wanted the movies to be considered a classy place, like the live theater and the opera house, not a dirty place like the ballpark. But the Great Depression made short work of that attitude. Most theaters started selling overpriced concession just like the ballpark, and that’s the way it still is today.

Comment by Zap

My big question is can they restrict you bringing in water?

I was always held a firm belief that since water is free (normally), and necessary for life, that they can possibly turn you away if you bring in a water bottle from home, can they?

I do not eat candy or popcorn, or drink soda, but having to pay 5 dollars for a water bottle there when I can buy a cheap plastic one and fill it up at home is something that I would never do. Maybe Ill test my theory this week, and just walk in with a water bottle!

Comment by Jer

Excellent, we have a pioneer! Willing to take the test to the streets. Stick it to the man! Fight the good fight! I would say when it comes to the price gouging its all the same, but let us know.

Comment by acts2forty2

The NY Times Magazine has a very cool column known as “The Ethicist”. Each week people write The Ethicist with ethical conundrums and he usually incisively arrives at a fair answer.

Anyway, someone once asked him this question. His original answer was a movie theatre is a private business and they have a right to set their own rules.

Later on, though, he changed his mind. He decided that since there is no rational reason for the ban other than to force everyone to buy their food, and since they charge outrageous prices for that food, and since it has zero effect on your fellow theatregoers, there’s nothing wrong with it. Smuggle away!

The Eagles, when they built their new football stadium, announced they were going to ban outside food for “national security reasons”. Next day, the Philly Daily News ran a front-page picture of a hoagie with the title “Hoagies of Mass Destruction”. Within a week the ban was rescinded.

This subject has been on my mind. This weekend I got caught smuggling a sandwich into an amusement park. Tip of the day: don’t wrap a sandwich in aluminum foil, it will trip the metal detectors. And be prepared with a good story if you do get caught. I managed to ad-lib something about the sandwich being kosher but the security guard wasn’t buying it. End result: I had to throw the sandwich away to enter the park, and then buy pizza for lunch at friggin’ $4/slice.

Comment by Marc

Marc, thanks for the comments. I completely agree with the Ethicist and I grieve for the lost sandwich (the Kosher ploy is legendary).

Comment by acts2forty2

I agree almost 100% with Mr. Zap.

I don’t have a problem with bringing your own water – especially if it’s in a reusable container, allowing you to skip buying another one of those evil plastic bottles.

That said, I’m not sure that the concession prices at the theater are “gouging.” We’d need to define “gouging,” for one. Plus, theaters often make zero (or negative) dollars on ticket sales, meaning that they stay above water because of selling food/beverages.

Granted, if soda is $4 so the CEO of Tinseltown can continue making 74 quadrillion dollars a year, I’d be fine with saying it’s unethical. But, if soda is $4 so that all the theater workers can make better than minimum wage, I’m all for it.

Here is an interesting article on this topic, that you might enjoy:

It seems that popcorn is the big margin (90%!?!) product.

Comment by Wham

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