| by Kenneth Chase | 100 comments

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.

100 Comments

Bee Phenix

Aug 8, 2019, 6:27 pm Reply

When I go to the theater my mom buys two tickets and share a (small) popcorn. That’s it. (And maybe a water)

erick game

Aug 8, 2019, 7:14 pm Reply

US theaters are so expensive, here in Mexico the ticket can go from $2 to maybe $6 dollars, popcorn and soda cost only like $3 dollars.

reaver414

Aug 8, 2019, 7:40 pm Reply

Buncha Crunch is the best, its like eating kit-kat M&M's

Victor Popov

Aug 8, 2019, 8:23 pm Reply

Only normies buy food at the theater

Jundi_vici

Aug 8, 2019, 8:29 pm Reply

29% percent of people are legends

Arstotzka

Aug 8, 2019, 8:48 pm Reply

I just smuggle some shit from target I got usually..

Just a tip to not spend all that damn money, and get it somewhere else for like 30$ less

🔴Warped🔴

Aug 8, 2019, 9:19 pm Reply

What's a movie theater?🙄

Maddynf Lil Tay

Aug 8, 2019, 10:20 pm Reply

I went to a movie and spent $18 on 3 REGULAR sized drinks. I could have got 18 BIGGER drinks at the McDonalds down the road

byron Rideaux

Aug 8, 2019, 11:37 pm Reply

Is it true that you used to be able to go to the movies with just 10 dollars

Breakfast

Aug 8, 2019, 12:01 am Reply

This is why you sneak food in it's so easy

Ben Johnson

Aug 8, 2019, 12:01 am Reply

I think dollar stores make the most profit off of movie theaters lmao

T Hyslop

Aug 8, 2019, 12:20 am Reply

Never have been tempted to buy the concessions. Takes a microgram of willpower to resist.

Nick S

Aug 8, 2019, 1:08 am Reply

Mmmmm, popcorn.

kingtoyab69

Aug 8, 2019, 1:19 am Reply

Your allowed to bring your food and beverages into the cinema as long as its not hot or any alcohol. I'm from the UK so rules may differ but I do it all the time and I've never had issues.

dedly kuin

Aug 8, 2019, 1:49 am Reply

ticket prices in USA are more than 10usd?

Darkz

Aug 8, 2019, 2:05 am Reply

Or just chew a chewing gum
that will help you imagine what food you’re eating and made you focus when going inside without looking for snacks.

NoT1M0

Aug 8, 2019, 3:01 am Reply

In my country we pay $100+ just to watch the movie y'all should be grateful damn

Minibear Bustos

Aug 8, 2019, 3:12 am Reply

Just want until the movie theaters see this!

dkd da

Aug 8, 2019, 3:31 am Reply

i havent been to a movie in 10years, not planning on going with those price, let the chinese chock on their investment.

HOLLOW HILL

Aug 8, 2019, 3:52 am Reply

it maybe sneaky but, you got workers that work there to pay their bills….. if living expenses, bills, and, taxes were lowered a lot…then there won't be sneaky stuff….

Chris Booboo

Aug 8, 2019, 4:29 am Reply

Yeah, I don't buy the garbage. The tickets cost to much to.

League of teemo

Aug 8, 2019, 4:39 am Reply

Just make A "movie day" pants sweatshirt sew big pockets in them and you can have your stuff in it

OVO

Aug 8, 2019, 4:49 am Reply

i don't even know why people don't know this lmao. the theaters don't get a big percentage of the ticket price so they upcharge the concessions. pretty simple

FROY_BOY PRODUCTIONS

Aug 8, 2019, 5:24 am Reply

They have a kids combo

FROY_BOY PRODUCTIONS

Aug 8, 2019, 5:24 am Reply

It’s like 5 to 6 dollars

FROY_BOY PRODUCTIONS

Aug 8, 2019, 5:25 am Reply

You get a gummy candy some popcorn and a mini soda

Electric Sutando

Aug 8, 2019, 6:31 am Reply

I’ve smuggled in a full blown 100 piece chicken nuggets from Burger King plus carne asada fries and still spent less than a regular popcorn and soda. Just buy your own food and figure out a way to bring it in people.

SilentFood

Aug 8, 2019, 10:21 am Reply

Well, i managed to sneak in KFC, big bag of cheaps, Mcdonalds, Subway n sometimes home cook meals. But i do buy popcorn once in a while in the cinema

How2Not

Aug 8, 2019, 10:48 am Reply

you smell buttery popcorn
I smell ChOlEsTeRoL

aaronpiper92

Aug 8, 2019, 12:24 pm Reply

that awkward moment when the youtube comment section is smarter than the narrator …

Nikko Prasetyo

Aug 8, 2019, 12:36 pm Reply

Makes me feel so grateful after seeing this. Only cost $3.50 in my country. And the facilities are better than most US theaters.

Daniel ,

Aug 8, 2019, 2:37 pm Reply

I love living in South Africa they never notice if you are taking food in and if you do they dont actually care. I took a piza in once and the ladie saw me and didnt care.

B34ST

Aug 8, 2019, 3:00 pm Reply

Tickets in LA are like $15 😔

jedijooj

Aug 8, 2019, 4:09 pm Reply

Bring your own food or eat before…

jedijooj

Aug 8, 2019, 4:12 pm Reply

In the Uk your allowed food

Daniel

Aug 8, 2019, 4:14 pm Reply

In Canada our main theater chain is Cineplex which spans across all provinces *excluding territories*. I save money by, going on cheap tuesday (7$ CAD a ticket) and i bring a 1$ chocolate bar and 1.25$ bottle of pop from dollarama. Then i bring paper bags. 1 large popcorn is about 8$ compared to around 6$ for a small and you get over twice the amount! So we split the popcorn! We spend around 13.25$ CAD per person or about 10$ USD! That's about the price of 1 ticket! Ez win

Carlos Baltodano

Aug 8, 2019, 4:28 pm Reply

Business Insider 2019: Movie theaters are evil for trying to turn a profit, don’t support them!

Business Insider 2025: Who killed the movie theaters?

Trolololol

Aug 8, 2019, 4:46 pm Reply

Good thing we have a little theater here where tickets are still around 6 dollars. The only downside is that most of the movies they show has been out several months, but not for people like me who wait for hype is down and fewer people goes to it so we can have the whole screen room to ourself.

Nhek Zero

Aug 8, 2019, 4:57 pm Reply

Most people don't even finish half the popcorn bucket and end up throwing it away.

dmctheman10

Aug 8, 2019, 5:34 pm Reply

dollar tree all name brand snacks and candy only 1 dollar each who would buy at the movies

uwu グーチ owo

Aug 8, 2019, 6:19 pm Reply

This is why you sneak in candy from the dollar store

Samuel Paramor

Aug 8, 2019, 6:49 pm Reply

Just bring the food and drinks in, there's no rules against it

BOMBON187

Aug 8, 2019, 7:04 pm Reply

Here's a tip: Eat before you go to the movies.
Problem solved

Midzy and BLINK

Aug 8, 2019, 7:15 pm Reply

Does anybody Know who kpop junkie. Well is sounds like him

Cristhian Perez

Aug 8, 2019, 7:18 pm Reply

I usually wait for the movie to be available for rent online. I'll buy candy and food at a cheaper store and watch in the convenience of my room.

oldnew newold

Aug 8, 2019, 7:21 pm Reply

Once I bring a whole chicken from acme into the movie theater.I did pay for the soda though.

Brandon Wilson

Aug 8, 2019, 7:33 pm Reply

theatres don’t actually care about sneaking food in, it’s a myth.

David Montiel

Aug 8, 2019, 7:43 pm Reply

Why not just eat elsewhere before or after the movie? People can wait 2-2.5 hours.

BalthazarTheGreat

Aug 8, 2019, 8:09 pm Reply

It's not sneaky they are a middle man who has to make a living as well. And there only option is to have massively inflated snack prices.

Muscle Man

Aug 8, 2019, 8:51 pm Reply

Everyone keeps talking about smuggling food I have never smuggled food into a theater.

Enrique Naranjo

Aug 8, 2019, 9:41 pm Reply

Agh I know that theater at 0:13
Give me award

Fighter 937

Aug 8, 2019, 9:53 pm Reply

People who smuggle food in movie theaters should be banned

1hard2findbro

Aug 8, 2019, 10:06 pm Reply

if you arent willing to spend big money, dont go to the theaters. also, dont be surprised if your local theater closes. sorry businesses in your area are a luxury that needs money. no way around it. some of my trips to the theater were free. some were $120. all were appreciated!

Amazing Art by Demilah Ramirez

Aug 8, 2019, 10:42 pm Reply

Dollar tree
IS LAUGHING AT THIS VIDEO🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂

Resident Evil

Aug 8, 2019, 11:29 pm Reply

Jokes on you. I can't afford movies

Coldheartz

Aug 8, 2019, 12:17 am Reply

How to save money?
Women: eat before you go.
Me: don’t go watch it online for free

solchrystal

Aug 8, 2019, 12:29 am Reply

Almost all of movie theaters are in a mall or in the vicinity of a mall, that has a food court with more and cheaper options. I just go there and eat before the movie 🤷‍♀️

Robyn Wall

Aug 8, 2019, 1:10 am Reply

Heh, I just bring a really bring bag and stuff it with candy, popcorn and drinks from the dollar store😏😏😏

Sjtaehyung

Aug 8, 2019, 3:31 am Reply

I’m Asian and the ticket cost 4$ drink cost 2$ and the popcorn is 3$

Danny Garcia

Aug 8, 2019, 3:33 am Reply

I work at a theatre. We don’t give a shit if you sneak in snacks or drinks. Just don’t get caught by a manager. Also the theatres revenue mainly comes from concessions, not tickets. Don’t get mad at an employee for the prices

MrSpooky Spare

Aug 8, 2019, 3:33 am Reply

Good thing i dont pay for my tickets i got A List baby😊😊

Marcus_ PH

Aug 8, 2019, 10:05 am Reply

Luckly i live in phlipineses becuse u can buy anything in any store and not get cought

Crocodile

Aug 8, 2019, 11:16 am Reply

Personally, I don’t eat any of that food at home or at the movies. It’s not part of my diet fortunately.

Patrick Mittel

Aug 8, 2019, 1:06 pm Reply

In germany it's so easy to smuggle in anything as long as it fits in your backpack so i guess all americans can suck our dicks ^-^ edit: 8:54 this dude has good taste in anime

SleepLess

Aug 8, 2019, 3:10 pm Reply

Bro I bring in a jumper that has the pockets connected at the front and put in snacks

brendaleetv

Aug 8, 2019, 3:21 pm Reply

I just love the popcorn, the taste of the movie cokes are the best! Who cares anyway, its like once or twice a yr that I go to the theatre! I saw the new Hobbs movie with two Corona beers, & popcorn, the best.

Stromboli

Aug 8, 2019, 3:59 pm Reply

You gotta get a slushee though, it’s a right of passage for the movies. But sneak in all the candy and shit

CRaVe Ee

Aug 8, 2019, 4:54 pm Reply

I sneak in my beans in the movie theater.

dιмα вσяιsσv

Aug 8, 2019, 9:44 pm Reply

just sneak in food
you don't have to buy food there🤦🏻‍♂️

Tony Montana

Aug 8, 2019, 11:31 pm Reply

That why I go to the drive-in in ft. Lauderdale. But first I go to the dollar tree stack up on snacks than order takeout.

Not Me

Aug 8, 2019, 11:45 pm Reply

I turned off the video before half of it because of the narrator’s voice. Absolutely horrible.

SC

Aug 8, 2019, 4:24 am Reply

I rarely eat in the cinema because I can’t properly hear the movie dialogue while eating

DH Yukon

Aug 8, 2019, 4:28 am Reply

In my whole life, only went to the concessions stand once, don't even look their cause it's so dirty. Haha You practically made no Money off of me AMC!

DH Yukon

Aug 8, 2019, 4:35 am Reply

Popcorn is a way to make a ton of money. A cup of kernals get ya a bucket lol

Christopher Steitz

Aug 8, 2019, 5:47 am Reply

I usually try to go on discount ticket days and only pay for popcorn that is spilt between 3 people, because yeah the prices at movie theaters are insane

vernicegirl8987

Aug 8, 2019, 8:21 am Reply

As a person who use to work at the movie theatre, literally nobody cares if you sneak in food. Just don’t come in with a huge bag that says McDonald’s on it. Just put it in your backpack.

Derill Troy Tacang

Aug 8, 2019, 10:30 am Reply

$12 Dollars? Thats like ₱550, Our movie theater from PH like END game cause ₱4

Ekyasa Mahardika

Aug 8, 2019, 11:25 am Reply

I never buy food on theater 😂 i just buy the movie ticket, only the movie ticket.

Erin Sun

Aug 8, 2019, 1:30 pm Reply

I sneak food in once in a while but Canadian ticket prices are literally $20 at least for my age

Carlos Lopez

Aug 8, 2019, 2:51 pm Reply

it's Maria Menunos!

Tyrone Biggums™

Aug 8, 2019, 6:41 pm Reply

Hey, it is what it is, as long as the movie is a good one and my friends have a good time, why should it hurt spending a lil cash on them.

OhMyGulay

Aug 8, 2019, 6:54 pm Reply

I've snuck in an entire large meat lovers pizza from Pizza Hut before. Literally just opened one of the side exits for the theater and got the delivery drive to meet me there.

The Lavender Pandicorn Lilly

Aug 8, 2019, 7:50 pm Reply

They say the smallest and cheapest snack at a movie theater is nonexistent but at my movie theater they sell whole pickles for 50 cents and child/small eater deals for $5 (contains popcorn,drink, and snack/candy)

Google Plusz

Aug 8, 2019, 8:37 pm Reply

Prices in Hungary are way lower, you can buy a ticket to a 2D movie for under 5 bucks.

Bichr Salhi

Aug 8, 2019, 10:16 pm Reply

This is kinda true assuming you wont get shot at while watching the movie

William Smith

Aug 8, 2019, 10:59 pm Reply

Definitely tempting, but the prices they charge are utterly ridiculous that I can't even contemplate supporting that ridiculous business model. If they charged a few dollars less than I'd be more sympathetic, but it's a total money grab.

CollegeTalkTV

Aug 8, 2019, 11:48 pm Reply

He really think because no outside food or drinks are allowed then you have to buy from the movie theater. I walk in with McDonald's or Boston Market in my hand and they don't say shit to me.

Matthew McCabe

Aug 8, 2019, 1:11 am Reply

Next video how the dollar tree makes its money

Victor

Aug 8, 2019, 2:02 am Reply

I’ve snuck in in-n-out cuz it was right next door 🧐

yanca Lai

Aug 8, 2019, 2:19 am Reply

50% why i go to theatre is to get their popcorn. Idk it just taste better.

Caroline Peni

Aug 8, 2019, 3:04 am Reply

Some smart audiences sneak their food. And funny enough, AMC allows that flexibility compares to Regal.

Emma Tay

Aug 8, 2019, 3:18 am Reply

Lol just go in 15 min late

Sestaesta

Aug 8, 2019, 3:26 am Reply

It’s pretty easy. Go on a Tuesday for 5 bucks. Don’t get popcorn. Drink water out the fountain

Arthur C

Aug 8, 2019, 5:41 am Reply

I dont even go to cinema, chinese app allow me to watch and download all these

Arashi Mae

Aug 8, 2019, 5:52 am Reply

Movies here for student is $6.5-7 and food u can secretly sneek in food

adi jaya

Aug 8, 2019, 8:52 am Reply

Same here; Indonesia

HITMAN TIME TRAVELLER

Aug 8, 2019, 11:59 am Reply

Bruh in my movie theater cost 1 person 200 something and 80 for a popcorn

Gabe Hernandez

Aug 8, 2019, 12:27 pm Reply

LMAO I never eat at the movie theater. I guess I have good will power 🤷‍♂️

Cyka Blyat

Aug 8, 2019, 1:12 pm Reply

not so sneaky tho

Reuben Charles

Aug 8, 2019, 1:19 pm Reply

Eat before you go to the cinema problem solved thank you.

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