Sneaky Ways Movie Theaters Get You To Spend More Money


So, I just saw the new “Spider-Man.” The ticket cost $12, my popcorn was $8, the candy was $4.50, and my soda was $6. That’s over $30 for just one person. Movie theaters are like
theme parks or carnivals. Once inside, you play by their rules. And if you’re like me, you spend way more than you expect to. AMC isn’t really selling
you a movie ticket. They’re selling you this food. You can’t get in here
without spending money. It all starts with the ticket. You might have heard that
movie-ticket prices keep climbing, averaging over $9 nationwide, and almost twice that in big cities. Going to see a movie
means you have to spend at least the cost of admission. But if you think that money is going to the theater, you’re wrong. Chains like Regal and AMC keep only about 50% of the money they take from ticket sales each year. The bulk of that ticket price
goes back to the distributor. And if you want to see
a higher-quality format, you have to pay a huge premium. But it doesn’t really matter
how much your ticket costs, because if you’re going
to a movie theater, chances are you’re buying some food. AMC reports that more
than 71% of attendees purchase something at concessions. Kim Moon: If they did
not have concessions, they wouldn’t be in business. Narrator: That’s Kim Moon. She’s a marketing instructor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And she’s right. Without concession sales, both AMC and Regal
would not make a profit. Moon: So, when you walk into a theater, you will see tons and tons of imagery, as it relates to food and beverage. Narrator: Most movie theaters are designed so you have to walk past
the concession counter. The actual movies are tucked
away, down long, dark hallways. But as soon as you get inside the theater, the food is bright, colorful, and, thanks to the glass
cases, visible at every angle. You can see popcorn popping, stacks of candy, and giant soda machines. Kit Yarrow: The big, huge boxes serve sort of like a billboard effect. They’re enormous and so calling out to you more than an appropriately sized box. When you open it up, though, it’s about the same
amount of candy in there as a small box that you
might find at the drugstore. Narrator: All of this is
surrounded by TV screens that loop beautiful shots
of soda and popcorn. Food is constantly
grabbing your attention. Unlike a restaurant, where the
food is prepared out of view, a movie theater makes everything
right in front of you. Yarrow: Visually taking over the space, they also are physically
taking over the space. It’s really hard to get around it. You kind of have to stop,
figure out where you’re going, and, in the process, you’re being exposed to all of that stimulation. We’re queuing people,
psychologically, to want something. Narrator: And then there is the smell. Aah, that heavenly smell. Ingrained in every moviegoer’s brain is the smell of buttery popcorn. This smell gets your attention
as soon as you walk in and evokes a sense of nostalgia. You probably don’t eat a tub of popcorn and a box of Buncha Crunch
at home, but here, you do. And in bigger theaters, there might even be
multiple concession areas. If your auditorium is on a higher floor, get ready to pass by two
or three tempting displays. And because no outside
food or drink is allowed, if you want to eat something
during your two-hour movie, you have to get it at the theater. OK, so you want to buy just one thing, something small and cheap. Well, good luck. All of the items at
concessions are more expensive than what you would pay
outside the theater. And, often, you can’t
even find a small size. So you have to choose
between regular and large. What does regular even mean? The large seems like a better deal. It’s only a dollar more. So you may be tempted
to spend a little extra. And if you’re going to eat
all of that salty popcorn, you’re probably going to get thirsty. So you’ll buy a drink, too. And that’s great news for the theater. Because all of the food sold at concessions has a huge profit margin. That means they’re cheap to make but are sold at a high price. Remember that $8 popcorn? Theaters make a lot more
on that bag of popcorn than they make on your ticket. Let me show you what I mean. In 2018, 62% of AMC’s total revenue came from admissions. Thirty-one percent was from concessions. But AMC was able to keep almost 84% of that concession revenue as profit, compared to just under 50% that they were able to
keep from admissions. Basically, if you spend $1
on food, AMC keeps $0.84. But if you spend $1 on a
ticket, it keeps only $0.50. So it will do whatever it can to get you to spend more money on food. Moon: Buy one, get one free;
free upgrades; free refills; what they’re doing is
using price discrimination. Narrator: That means they’ll offer you a greater value with a larger size. The margins aren’t as good, but the theater is still
getting more of your money. And movie theaters love to offer combos. Popcorn with soda, a hot dog with fries, candy and a slushy, pretty much any combination
you can think of. Unfortunately, those combos
usually aren’t a great deal. Unless you’re sharing in a big group, you’ll probably be stuck with
more food than you can eat and free refills that you won’t use. Yarrow: They end up wasting
a lot of that popcorn, but, most importantly, they
end up wasting that money. Narrator: Many theaters have
also started offering things like alcoholic beverages and full meals. These might bring a better experience, but they also allow theaters to charge an even higher premium. Like this AMC deal that
offers a hot dog, curly fries, and a chocolate-chip cookie for $13. Combine all of this
with bright-red colors, warm lighting on the
food, and brand tie-ins, and it’s tough to walk
away from the counter with just one thing. But the tricks don’t stop at the lobby. Theaters list movie start times that are 15 to 20 minutes earlier than when the movie actually starts. This helps the theater in two ways. It allows them to show more
commercials before the trailers, which is another source of revenue, and it keeps moviegoers
sitting and waiting for longer. If you have to sit through 20
minutes of ads and trailers, you might give in and
go grab a box of candy, especially if those commercials
are for food and soda. And delayed start times also remove the pressure of missing
the beginning of the movie. So you might not mind waiting
in line for some snacks. Each interaction is designed to get you to spend money on concessions. Just look at the ticket window compared to the concession counter. At this AMC, the ticket window is plain and not very stimulating. But the concession counter is
bright, colorful, and branded. It immediately catches your eye. But those are the tricks they use only when you’re actually at the theater. Theaters are also experts at getting you back to see another movie. Reward points and special-access
programs get consumers to go to the movies more often. Gaining points for each dollar you spend is a great motivator to buy a little more than you normally would. Moon: They report their members
going to movies more often with the subscription than without. And, of course, these members
will bring their friends and their families, who
will pay full price. Narrator: And if you
saved money on your ticket with a program like AMC A-List, you might be more willing
to spend money on food. Some of these programs can
actually save you money, but you shouldn’t spend more just to get points or discounts faster. Of course, if your loyalty
program is on an app, the theater has 24/7
access to your attention and can send push notifications with details about promos and deals, like this AMC ad that offers free popcorn when you purchase a
ticket for your friend. Even when you’re not at the theater, they’re still trying to
get you to spend money. You might be pretty annoyed
at movie theaters right now, but it’s not an easy business. Avid moviegoers want modern,
well-maintained theaters with high-quality formats, and because so much of the ticket price is going to the distributor, theaters have to find
alternative sources of revenue, which means snacks and drinks. So, should you just stay home, throw some Orville
Redenbacher in the microwave, and watch only what’s on Netflix? Of course not! Going to the movies is supposed to be fun. But you have to make sure
the movie you’re seeing and the food you’re eating
is what you actually want, not just something that has been constantly advertised to you. And these tactics are employed best at big chains, like Regal or AMC. At a local theater, you’ll often find cheaper
concessions and tickets. So, what can you do to save money? Moon: Eat before you go.

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100 thoughts on “Sneaky Ways Movie Theaters Get You To Spend More Money

  1. What they forgot to mention is that the extra money they make from concessions is used to pay employees, heat/cool the building, up keep, etc.

  2. Get a big bag, order some food before..stop at the gasoline station before you get to the movies ..get all the candy you want and there you go you saved like $100

  3. I prefer to hook up My laptop via HDMI to my flatscreen and search up any movie I want. Cinemas are full of disruptive people and crying babies. It's always cold in there too.

  4. Buy it somewhere else cheaper. Sneak it in. Sad that concessions are all that keep a theater running but we're poor… We barely go to the movies as it is. Maybe every 3 years .

  5. If more people sneak in food then the AMC business might go down because they ain't making any money so plz try to bye something once in a while

  6. I still remember the time I took my brother's friends to see the premiere of Deadpool 2. I don't know how, but one his female friends managed to sneak a half eaten Taco Bell Crunchwrap in her leggings. The sight of her partially lifting her shirt, reaching between her legs, and whipping out that Crunchwrap is something I don't think I can ever forget in my lifetime.

  7. Wait wait wait… ur telling me u get movie tickets for 12 dollars?!? That’s a great deal!!! Also… a single person eating a large popcorn, box of candy, and a drink? That’s highly unlikely

  8. I love Harkins Theatres (Arizona company)
    1.50 dollar refills buying one time loyalty cup. Good for one year
    Popcorn pass (36 medium popcorn) 1 medium free (7 dollar value)
    $252 value for 30.00

  9. Umm I just pay for the ticket occasionally get popcorn or a drink but I rather get food from a theater than just snacks

  10. Yeaa don’t get $4-6 candy
    I don’t mind the bucket o popcorn because they can refill it and it’s fine, I don’t mind soft drinks if I can go to a drinking station myself!

  11. Yeaa they just need better concessions because they have a bag of nachos with processed cheese? Why can’t they just serve actual chips n queso

  12. ticket profit goes straight to the movie that produced them so theaters have to get profit some other way, snacks i have not watched the video but it does not take that long to figure out

  13. Every time I go to any movie theatre, regal most of the time, I always stock up on the exact same candy from dollar tree and sneak it in. HEAR ME OUT, How I get my popcorn and drink for free, I get the largest size popcorn and drink from the trash can and wash it out in the bathroom with soap and water and get a free refill for both. So overall I spent 15 bucks at the movies.

  14. I used to live in Dubai and there they always used to run offers on food though. At around 25 AED you'd get a medium pop corn and a drink+ ministrels. More expensive than retail, but still a good deal.

  15. Get your stuff from the shop then. It’s what everybody does except dumb idiots that think they have all the money in the world.

  16. I live in Jersey and there is only one cinema on the entire island. The prices are like £10 a ticket ($12.89). We can’t go anywhere else, we are a captive audience.

  17. Nothing to do with the video.

    Woah hold up. You pay about 10 bucks to watch the movie before everyone else butttttt, when it comes out on dvd or amazon video its 22 bucks. Hmm.

  18. 0:16 “once your inside, you play by there rules”

    Me walking through the movie theater without a ticket trying to figure out which one I wanna watch, also with Chick-fil-A in my hoodie: laughs in stealth 100

  19. I feel like soon they’re going to pat you down like TSA or invent a candy detector to make sure you aren’t sneaking in food.

  20. Honestly I just shove candy/chocolate into my bra…. idgaf . Like what r the staff at the movie theatre gunna say? “ yo titties r too big ?” well thanks mam/sir.

  21. When I went to see end game there were zero trailer of adverts, no joking, got there 10 minutes before it started, no adverts just went in

  22. Business insider isn't teaching anyone anything. Pretty much everyone knows this and just sneak cheap candy in from gas stations, dollar stores, target, etc. Before going into the theatre.

  23. Lowkey the movie theater the only decent entertainment around my area so I don’t mind supporting it by buying food.

  24. Honestly for 30 bucks you can buy the ticket, two mc chickens, sour patch kids, skittles, little ceasers lunch combo, bag of cheetos, and a bag of takis.

  25. So, Going to a theatre is NOTHING but Buy Food, Buy Food and Buy Food than Enjoying some Actions, Drama, Suspense, Horror and Comedy that you are watching. It makes no sense.

  26. I put food in my pocket or hide it in my boxers and clip it to my pants with a safety pin so it doesn’t fall down my pants leg

  27. The cinema I go to, charged 5gbp for an adult ticket, allows you to bring in food, but it has 30mins of ads so it evens out I guess

  28. My science teacher made us watch a video on how types of movie snacks are made.
    I didn’t eat that day…
    We couldn’t eat in that class…
    I also watched a video on food when I woke up
    I need to stop

  29. Lol last time i went to the theatre there was this lady and her teen daughter in front of us and they just bought a large soda, and the cashier was all like: “You’re not gonna buy any popcorn?!” The lady said “Nope.” “I’d rather spend it on a meal.” The cashier’s face was priceless. I totally agree with that lady.

  30. In my cinema outside food is allowed lol. The most popular one isn’t even popcorn. Its a yummy french fry stand called Potato Corner.

  31. The staff really doesn’t care if you bring in food, just be discrete. We don’t get paid enough to care, and it’s not like we loose money

  32. 1. Sneak snacks in, simple
    2. Have a gf or a purse lol TO sneak snacks in
    3. Join whatever loyalty program they have, sometimes worth it not gonna lie
    4. Take their loyalty cup every time, so you don’t pay for $5 refill AND get water instead of soda etc. (I don’t drink soda, water is free)

    Idk what else lol

  33. they sell popcorn or nacho and cheese, drinks in combo sets, so they cost abt 8++ for students and 10++ for adults, sometimes lesser cause your movie ticket consists of your popcorn and drinks coupon

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