Movie Theater Prices: Too Expensive or Just Enough?

Movie theaters often overcharge for snacks, is this justified?


Popcorn at the movies is a classic treat. Photo courtesy of Dbreen. “Popcorn, Movies, Cinema”

Walking into a movie theater, many things greet you: the smell of freshly buttered popcorn, the flashing lights of the arcade and the overwhelming prices.

Wait, what?

Over the years, movie theaters have become infamous for their snack prices- which can range from average to excessive. Specifically, teenagers tend to have qualms with these prices, as many of them usually don’t get paid as much as adults do (or don’t even have a job). Movie theaters are a popular teen hangout with exciting movies and delicious snacks.

Most movie theaters are chain companies, such as AMC, Regal Cinemas or Cinemark, and don’t have to deal with many local theaters as competition. This lack of competition gives these companies great incentive to maximize prices. Two-thirds of all the movie theaters in Colorado Springs belong to one of the aforementioned franchises.

Many people enjoy the buttery crunch of popcorn, or a cold, refreshing soda during a movie. Movie theaters tend to anticipate this and capitalize on it.

“I think that theater prices are too far up. They can even be twice as much as usual,” said sophomore David Van Remortel.

However, there is a flip side to this: most movie theaters make just enough from the sale of movie tickets alone to keep the movie theater afloat. Furthermore, movie theaters have an 85 percent profit margin on concessions, but the total average profit margin for a theater is a mere 4.3 percent.

Just raising the movie ticket prices won’t help, as it’ll cause people to stop going to the movies. Paying the actual movie creators for the chance to even play the movie takes up most of the ticket sales. Not only that, but it’s hard to imagine paying $30 for a ticket when it would cost around $10 to rent it on Amazon.

This creates the need to raise prices, which is troubling for most people. One common remedy for this issue is to sneak snacks in; this allows people to avoid the high prices, but is frowned upon and generally against theater policies. Even the sneakiest of people can’t bring in the amount of food that they could buy at the concessions stand.

“I just think we should be able to bring our own snacks,” said freshman Faith Poling.

Of course, this would allow for greater selection in food, but as of 2015, Regal Cinemas instituted a bag check policy to prevent customers from bringing in outside food. Other cinemas simply ban purses and backpacks. On a more extreme level, a few theater policies show that if employees find non-concessional food wrappers in the movie theater, they may land in trouble with their supervisors.

Movie theaters bring about many positive experiences: seeing brand-new movies in brightly lit, sharp images on enormous screens that surround the audience with fictional scenes and captivating characters. Laughing and crying along with peers is an immersive experience, with the smell of popcorn and the occasional quiet chuckle.

While movie snacks are expensive, they allow for cheaper movie tickets and are essential in generating revenue. If you’re like me, you are unwilling to spend $5 on a bag of candy (that would otherwise cost half that at a gas station) or sneak snacks in. It might be easier to simply find a movie theater where outside food is allowed. It’s a win-win.