Public enemy #1? (Thinkstock)
Movie popcorn is a rip-off. We all know this, but what we choose to do with this information depends on the person. Some of us choose to smuggle in store-bought food, other go hungry. Joshua Thompson calls his lawyers.
The Michigan man is suing AMC Theaters over $8 he spent on a Coke and a box Goobers at movie theater concession stand in December. He says he'd pay three times less than that at a nearby drug store, and he's right.
"He got tired of being taken advantage of," Thompson's lawyer, Kerry Morgan told the Detroit Free Press. "It's hard to justify prices that are three- and four-times higher than anywhere else."
That kind of price inflation is unlawful in the state under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, claims Thompson, a security technician in his mid-20s. He's asking the court for refunds for overcharged customers, a civil penalty against the chain and consumer justice for all.
Legal experts told the Free Press Thompson's chances of success are slim to none, because theaters are regulated and protected from the MCPA. But the support he's gotten from movie-goers around the country may be enough for theater chains to drop their prices, if only to avoid more smuggled in snacks.
Back in 2009, the website Gizmodo found that popcorn prices have seen 666% increase since they were first introduced in theaters in 1929. They claimed the average small popcorn has gone from 5 cents to about $4.75.
That number seemed exceptionally low, considering a small is usually about fifty cents less than a large which is how you end up rationalizing spending seven bucks on enough butter-soaked popcorn to feed a clown car.
In a call to a New York City-based AMC IMAX theater, I found out a large bucket of popcorn and a large drink would run me $13.25. Factor in the $13 movie ticket and I won't be able to afford dinner later (which is fine because my stomach will feel like a water balloon filled with pebbles.)
So why do theaters want to gouge our wallets? Aren't we already paying enough for the ticket and who can afford it all these days? I was surprised to find a lot of significant research by economists on this very subject.
In a joint research project between Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of California, Santa Cruz, analysts theorized pricey popcorn kept movie prices lower. Hard to believe, I know. But consider this: Hollywood snatches over 70% of the ticket sale revenue. With movie-goers opting for movie downloads and more affordable Netflix nights, box office numbers are at record lows and the first to feel the pinch are the theaters themselves.
Enter $13 snacks. Concession sales account for roughly 40% of a given movie theater's profit. Without it, they'd either have to raise ticket prices or become another parking lot. In simpler terms, if you don't supersize it you could be charged even more for admission.
So maybe we should be shelling out for bottomless boxes of goobers, or as I like to call them, moneyballs. I'll be honest, I probably won't. I'd still pay more for my movie ticket in exchange for drug-store priced snack options. Would you?
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Public enemy #1? (Thinkstock)