Is it dishonesty or just “Mormon Culture”?

Don - September 28, 2004

I’ve owned $1.00 admission movie theaters all over the U.S., literally from New York to California. I presently own one in Utah.

Of all the theaters I’ve owned the one in Utah has by far and away more people who “sneak” food and drinks in without paying. It is clearly posted “No outside food or drink” and yet these Mormons bring in everything from sandwiches to 2 liter sodas.

They answer “yes” to the temple interview question “are you honest in your dealing with your fellow man”. How does that work? What’s the justification? Our high admission costs…I don’t think so, at $1.00 we are a lot cheaper than video rental. Our high snack-bar prices…maybe, but we are by far and away the cheapest in town…and anyway we’ve got to make a profit somewhere just to stay open.

Even if our prices are “too high” so what, paying $1.00 authorizes you to come in and watch a movie it doesn’t authorize you to have a picnic.

Obviously I can’t vent like this locally where the theater is located. The backlash from all the Mormons I would offend would probably close me down. I guess as a businessman, if I’m not profitable within the local “culture” then I should just take my business elsewhere.

1 Comment »

  1. Forgive me, but this is hilariously uncanny. My sister was joking with us the other day that when her bishop asks her that very question, the one thing she says is, “Well, I try, but I do sometimes sneak candy into movie theaters.” Her bishop chuckled and said that if that was all she was guilty of then she was probably okay.

    It’s kind of funny to see it from the other side.
    Carl Youngblood | Email | Homepage | 09.28.04 – 2:21 pm | #

    Well OBVIOUSLY it’s ok because no one specifically comes up to them and asks them if they have any outside food or drink! That way, they’re not lying to anyone and not lying is honesty, right?
    Lying is one of my most hated sins. The problems is exactly what described, too. People look for ways around telling the whole truth. They don’t realize there is a reason the commandment says “Thou shalt not BEAR FALSE WITNESS against thy neighbor,” instead of just “Thou shalt not lie.”
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 09.28.04 – 2:25 pm | #

    Carl,
    That is hysterical. I wonder what Don would have said if he were the interviewing bishop.

    Bret,
    Your point is well taken, although I think the line is quite gray. When the Elder’s Quorum prez asks who can help the Smiths move on Saturday, is it dishonest for me to not raise my hand (even though I CAN help, but don’t feel like it)?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 09.28.04 – 2:58 pm | #

    I hadn’t thought about it that way before. Of course, I don’t go to the movies often, but there have been times when I have taken maybe a candy bar in, or sugar-free candy, as it usually isn’t sold in concessions.
    Sister T | Email | Homepage | 09.28.04 – 3:50 pm | #

    If I was the Bishop, I’d probably take away her temple recommend, make her appologize to the theater owner, repay the food amount 7 times and then make her come back in 6 months for a review. Obviously…that’s why I’m not (or won’t be) a Bishop.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 09.28.04 – 4:26 pm | #

    Rusty,
    Yeah, that’s why I’m not the judge of what “bearing false witness” is. I just think people need to have “don’t bear false witness” on their minds instead “don’t lie.”

    Don,
    Maybe you could provide the sackcloth and ashes at the door for them to wear to the movie so everyone knows they were the sinners who brought in the outside food or drink. Of course, that would just be one more thing to bug the custodian. (But it’s better than gooey chicken and pizza, right?!)
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 09.28.04 – 9:17 pm | #

    Is it actually dishonest to disobey a movie theater’s regulations about bringing food in? Does posting the sign obligate people to follow it? No one is actually stealing anything, to my knowledge. Nor is anyone lying. I don’t recall that theaters require people to sign an agreement or recite an oath that they won’t bring concealed food in with them.

    In other words, I could see sneaking food into the theater as being disrespectful or a sign of flippancy towards theater regulations but I’m not sure it is really dishonest.

    Last time I went to a movie and snuck something in, it was bottled water. I couldn’t bring myself to spend $7.50 on three bottles of water when I could get them (same size, same brand) for a couple of bucks at a store in the same mall.

    If movie theaters would charge the same amount for treats that everyone else charges, people wouldn’t bother to sneak stuff in.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 – 4:26 pm | #

    The analogy I’m thinking of is if a store posts a “No Skateboarding” sign in their parking lot. If a teenager starts skateboarding in the lot, are they dishonest?
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 – 4:28 pm | #

    What of copyright laws, then? I signed no agreement nor took any oath to refrain from making copies of piano music for my students, nor from downloading music to my computer off the Internet. Yet most of us would consider these acts to fall under the category of dishonesty, wouldn’t we?

    In the case of sneaking food into a theater, what is being stolen is snack bar revenue, and where the patrons are “lying” is in “knowingly deceiving” — otherwise they wouldn’t hide their food.

    While I don’t know that my parking by a “no parking” sign makes me dishonest, I would say it borders on an infringement of canonized Mormon belief: “obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.” Of course, I won’t hope to be translated — nor will I condemn those who sneak things into movies — until I can stay under that speed limit posted on the highways.
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 – 5:25 pm | #

    Someone owns the rights to copyrighted material and to copy or download them without paying for them is in fact stealing.

    Lost snack bar revenue is not the patron’s responsibility. You can’t steal something from someone that they never owned or possessed in the first place. The theater still has all of its saleable property.

    The only problem really is that the exchange didn’t take place at the theater’s desired exorbitant rate (2 or 3 times the actual value of the item). Under those circumstances, for the theater to complain about customer dishonesty is a bit laughable.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 – 6:26 pm | #

    Danithew,
    You make a good point that whether I bring in my own Snickers or don’t bring anything, it’s not stealing, per se. However, just because you don’t agree with the rules of a private organization on private property, doesn’t mean that it’s okay to break those rules.

    You’re right, it’s not a matter of stealing. But what do you call it when someone knows rules and breaks them? I’m not sure. But what’s the answer for the theater owner that has enough patrons to make a profit in any other state, but doesn’t in Utah?

    It is interesting to know that Utahns spend almost half the national average at the snack bar. Is it from excesive smuggling, excesive cheapness, or do they just eat a lot less while watching movies?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 – 9:03 pm | #

    Rusty makes a good point. It is rules of a private organization on private property. It’s almost like agreeing to rules in a game and then breaking them later on. Or a much better example would be asking if you ever bring in your own beverages to a restaurant.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 – 10:47 pm | #

    Thanks Bret, but I’m just wondering, can anyone that is NOT one of Don’s children see his side, or are we just a little overly-sensitive for our father?
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 – 11:22 pm | #

    This is hilarious!

    Sincerely,
    Mara Suzanne
    Online Dater/Drinker
    http://www.marasuzanne.blogspot.com
    Mara | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 12:59 am | #

    A local theatre chain here in Missouri has a deal where if you buy one of the “bladder buster” sodas and jumbo popcorn, then you can keep the cup (it’s plastic) and use it for the rest of the year. Would it be dishonest if you bring the cup in with you, but fill it with water from the drinking fountain? ^_^
    Sister T | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 1:03 am | #

    Maybe I should leaven my seemingly acidic comments with a little bit of reality.

    I love movies and I buy food and snacks all the time at the theater. I prefer Raisinets or hot dogs and my wife loves nachos. I usually buy a large refillable drink as well. Except for that one occasion I mentioned earlier where I snuck 3 bottled waters into a movie, I can’t remember ever sneaking candy or food with me into a theater. I once went to a drive-in with some LDS friends and was truly disgusted when they allowed some siblings to hide themselves in the trunk rather than paying at the gate.

    I’m sorry if I seemed insensitive. I felt a little bad about being argumentative.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 7:26 am | #

    Also, as an additional side-note, my wife and I were on the South Beach diet in recent months and we were really surprised when we went to a theater and there were no sugar-free or no-carb food snacks available.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 7:27 am | #

    Don,
    That’s your cue. Sugar-free, no-carb snacks. Get on it!

    Danithew,
    Don’t feel bad at all. Like I pointed out, I think we might be a little over-sensitive because Don (Amy’s, Bret’s, and my dad) has dealt with this issue for well over a decade and it’s a real gray area for the exact reasons that you raise.

    This is why I love the blogoshpere, to be able to have these civil discussions (unless on your end you are yelling at the computer, “STUPID ELITIST THEATER OWNER! DOESN’T HE REALIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR CHEAP FOOD TO ACCOMPANY CHEAP ENTERTAINMENT!!!) which, coming from you Danithew, I doubt.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 8:11 am | #

    Rusty,

    I’m glad no offense is taken. I think the Nine Moons blog is pretty cool and I’m glad we can discuss things a bit.

    BTW, do the posts on this blog have permalinks? I was trying to find a specific link to this post so that I could mention it and link to it on my blog and couldn’t discover one. Maybe the solution is obvious and I’m missing it somehow.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 10:14 am | #

    I may be wrong, but my understanding of first-run movies at least is that most of the ticket sales revenue goes to the distributor, and the theaters make most of their profits off of the concessions.

    I’m no lawyer either, but it seems to me that buying and using a movie ticket enters one into an agreement with the theater operator. I disagree with some of the arguments here that claim that disregard for theater rules is not somehow lying or dishonest. It may not be stealing, but it is the breaking of a promise made.

    The difference is in the active nature of buying a ticket. The skateboarding in the parking lot example is different in that the skateboarder probably hasn’t promised to the store owner that he or she will not skateboard there. The ticket holder at the movies does promise to abide by the theater rules.
    Bryce I | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 2:01 pm | #

    I really don’t know what the “legal” standpoint is on this matter. As the theater owner I have been of the opinion that when someone pays the $1.00 admission that admits them to my theater, which I own and control, under my rules. If they don’t want to abide by my rules, then don’t pay the buck and go somewhere else.

    My rules say “no outside food or drink”. If you pay the buck and bring in your own food, then I think you are dishonest. It’s pretty black and white to me…but then again I’m the owner.

    I liked Bret’s comment, what would people say about bringing in your own deseret to a resturant. Their deseret prices are 3 or 4 times what they should be….is it dishonest to bring food into a resturant and eat it there. How about it you order a pepsi and then open up your bag and eat a whole dinner purchased at another resturant?
    Don | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 2:01 pm | #

    The temple interview question is “are you honest in your dealing with your fellowman?”. So I guess it depends on how you define “honest” and how you define “dealings”. If you can answer yes and feel good (and honest) about it, then it doesn’t matter what you do in my theater.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 2:03 pm | #

    One thing that bugs me sometimes about trying to be honest is that it can be a real pain for everyone involved.

    What happens when the scanned price at the register is less than the price you saw marked on the shelf? I struggle with this, because I feel that the store would probably rather lose the 25 or 50 cents than spend five minutes checking it out, causing the patrons in line behind me to wait longer. Is it my place to make that decision?
    Bryce I | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 2:20 pm | #

    Yesterday at the grocery store I noticed a honey bear near the bagging area that wasn’t mine out of the corner of my eye. When I looked as I was ready to leave I noticed that it wasn’t there anymore. As I got ready to leave the store, I was uncomfortable — the honey had probably made it into my bags. So I spent a couple of minutes digging around until I found it, and then spent another minute or so explaining the situation to the store manager. I didn’t feel bad about that — the store wasn’t busy, and I didn’t take anyone’s time. However, if I had not previously noticed the honey and not discovered the error until I got home, would I have returned it to the store? Likely not. I’m lazy that way. On the other hand, I haven’t returned the moldy sausage that I bought from that store last week either.

    After writing this post, I think I should probably find a new grocery store
    Bryce I | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 2:20 pm | #

    LOL!! Bryce I, that is hilarious. It sounds like you shop for groceries in Brooklyn. The nastiness of the produce helps foster business at the farmer’s market. I won’t touch the meat either. If I were to return a honey bear, the people at my grocery store would get incredibly annoyed, so I guess I find that others’ happiness trumps honesty in this case.

    But you do bring up an interesting question regarding honesty: does the value of the object in question have a direct correlation to the size of the sin? I mean dishonesty is dishonesty right? Uh….
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 2:48 pm | #

    I’ve never been aware that when I purchased a movie ticket that anything else was going on besides an exchange of currency for a movie ticket. Is there fine print on the ticket somewhere?

    I hate to become a Pharisee but it would be nice if some of the T&S lawyers could help clarify whether the law has said anything on this matter.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 4:59 pm | #

    Don, I don’t believe your rules to be unreasonable, but it is important to clarify that even though the theater is your property you can’t force people to abide by just any rules. They still have certain legal rights, that no amount of posted rules could infringe upon. Furthermore, buying a ticket does not bind people into a legal contract or anything.

    I agree with danithew that posting rules and no skateboarding signs has nothing to do with dishonesty. It might be uncharitable to disregard your neighbor’s requests, but it is not necessarily dishonest. The argument about “obeying, honoring and upholding the law” is flawed. These types of signs are not laws–there is no constitution in the land where you can find them written down.

    (continued…)
    Carl Youngblood | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 8:02 pm | #

    (…continued from above)

    On the other hand, hiding the candy so that it can’t be seen could be justly called dishonest, since you are trying to conceal your disregard for your neighbor’s request, which I see as trying to render an injustice to your neighbor while maintaining your own anonimity. If you walked in with the candy and said “I’m sorry but I don’t want to obey your rule,” that to me would be perfectly fine, but concealing your disobedience is another. That I believe would cross the line. I like Elder Marvin J. Ashton’s rule: a lie is any communication made with the intent to deceive.
    Carl Youngblood | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 8:03 pm | #

    I wish some of the lawyers at T&S would comment too.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 8:54 pm | #

    I think I dragged a red herring into this discussion by mentioning legality.

    I think that regardless of what the law says, buying a ticket constitutes a clear agreement between the theater owner and the patron — the ticket allows you entry and use of the facilities under the conditions printed on the wall.

    The rules may or may not be vigorously enforced, but that should not matter.

    How about this: what is the difference between sneaking food into the theater and watching two movies for the price of one admission (assuming the theater isn’t sold out)? They’re both just arbitrary rules set up by the ownership, aren’t they?
    Bryce I | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 9:31 pm | #

    I think both Bryce I and Carl make good points. Didn’t Lehi teach that there is no law without punishment? I mean, if Don is unwilling to punish those who oppose his rules, they really have no force as rules. So aren’t they really just requests? It’s hard to call someone who doesn’t fulfill a request a liar.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 09.30.04 – 11:21 pm | #

    I thought Don DID punish those he catches sneaking in food. The food is confiscated and/or the customers are kicked out.
    Another analogy that may or may not work. It’s like playing a game. By buying a ticket you agreed to the rules of the game. (Oh, lets say the game of Monopoly for irony’s sake) You agreed to do as the rules instructed and if you break them then the game must be terminated.
    Rusty,
    Yeah, this has been such a part of our lives for so long, I have a very hard time seeing the other side of it. However, I’ve always discouraged people from sneaking in food to ANY theatre, not just dad’s.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 3:17 am | #

    Though I had expected that theater owners could kick a patron out for not obeying the rules (after all, it is indeed private property) I had never imagined that a theater owner could confiscate “outside food” that was brought in. Do theater owners generally understand that they have this kind of enforcement capability (to confiscate food)?

    Bryce, I think watching two movies when a patron has only purchased a ticket to see one of the movies is a more obvious violation and theft. But that’s an interesting question and again I’d love to hear from someone who knows more about the law. Knowing how the law perceives these acts would be very useful to this discussion.

    Maybe lawyers are hesitating because providing information would make them liable. They could always comment anonymously (just a suggestion).
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 8:46 am | #

    Dan –

    Now that I think about it, business owners must clearly have the right to confiscate outside food or to boot out patrons who violate a no outside food policy, as is evidenced regularly at Yankee Stadium. I’ve seen it.
    Bryce I | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 11:57 am | #

    I work as a custodian for the Carmike theatre here in Rexburg and I’ve seen them confiscate food on a number of occasions. In fact, I think the employees like it when you bring in food!
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 1:33 pm | #

    If I kicked out everyone who brought in outside food the theater would be mostly empty…that’s my point!!

    Our policy is to ask them to finish it outside, if we see it soon enough or a polite reminder of our rules.

    Rusty, just because I don’t “punish” them doesn’t make it ok, nor does mean they are off the hook. If it is dishonest, and I contend it is, then punishment awaits.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 1:41 pm | #

    Why can’t you find a “good” lawyer when you need one? Oh, maybe that’s and oximoron. Any good lawyers want to comment?…on the blog, no my statement.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 1:42 pm | #

    I’m wondering if part of the problem in Utah could be that large families simply cannot afford to purchase treats at theater prices. I know that “everyone does it” … couples on dates, groups of friends … so I don’t think we can really explain the problem away with a family reason.

    But I’m wondering what Don and others have observed as far as this goes. The word picnic had been mentioned so I’m wondering if entire families (dad/mom/kids) are often sneaking things in or is that not much of an issue?
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 4:15 pm | #

    We literally see everything from sandwiches and 2 liter soda bottles, to candy bar wrappers and beer (heaven forbid) cans.

    It isn’t just families, nor just students, it’s across the board. Everyone does it…so it must be ok?

    I think “affording” something or not is a very poor justification. But we use that argument for other things like credit card debt etc. And bring outside food into a theater certainly isn’t something any of the G.A.s have spoken about, so justification is ok!?
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 4:50 pm | #

    As far as the legality issue, I have a law class today and I just asked our instructor (an attorney) about this topic (T&S lawyers, correct him if he’s wrong). He said that it would fall under contract law (or something like that) and tresspassing. When someone pays for admission to private property they are entering a kind of contract in which they agree to the stated rules (shirt, shoes, not playing on the balcony, no outside food or drink, etc.). On those grounds they break the law.

    Then I asked him about the ethics side of it (whether it’s honest, which was the original question) and he said he knows nothing about that, he’s an attorney. We both had a good laugh.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 5:30 pm | #

    I am a lawyer, although it has been a long time since I read cases dealing with this kind of issue. However, I believe it is perfectly reasonable for the owner, by posting a notice on the premises, to state that in exchange for your dollar he promises to let you watch a movie. In return, you agree to abide by his rules, one of which is that you not bring food into the theatre. By buying the ticket, you implicitly agree to that term, because that was expressly stated to be a term of the agreement. If you do not abide by that agreement, you are in breach of the agreement you made. And yes, I think that is dishonest. It is clear to me that when I buy a ticket, I am buying on those terms. If I don’t like it, I don’t buy. I don’t have the option of unilaterally changing the deal.
    Gary Lee | Email | Homepage | 10.01.04 – 7:49 pm | #

    I never thought I’d ever say this but I’M WITH THE LAWYERS!
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 10.02.04 – 6:44 pm | #

    OK … I know this thread is supposed to be dead already but I just stumbled upon this tale of sneaking food into a theater at a blog called Amish Robot …

    http://www.amishrobot.com/archiv…ive/ 000258.html
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 10.04.04 – 12:03 pm | #

    Since I wrote the amishrobot post I have been swayed by the powerful arguments on this site.

    I now purge the contents of my stomach before entering theaters.
    Josh | Email | Homepage | 10.04.04 – 1:55 pm | #

    Josh, no need to purge your stomach beforehand…there are any number of movies out there that will do that for you, now!
    Dave in CT | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 9:09 am | #

    Don,

    I actually have an interest in this just because I always thought it would be fun to own and operate a movie theater. Maybe we could communicate more via email but here is my initial two cents:

    I’m not as interested in the “honesty” issue as I am with the reasoning behind all movie theaters having a cookie cutter lack of answer to this problem.

    Posting extra signs, making the signs bigger, etc. is never going to fix this problem. In my opinion, it comes down to a movie theater having an extremely crappy product and wondering why patrons are looking to alternatives.

    I can think of two ways to potentially fix this problem:

    1) Change your product. Offer more variety. (side note: my mom is diabetic and sometimes has to eat during movies and must sneak something in in order to comply with her diabetes due to the theater’s lack of selection, would you confiscate her food?)
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 10:37 am | #

    Jordan Commons is the first to change in this area and although I don’t live very close to Sandy, I make a point to go to that theater often just because the idea of pizza or burgers or milkshakes in a theater is awesome!

    2) Have a much higher ticket price (say $3-$5) for those who want to bring in their own food. If I was asked at the booth, “would you like the $1 ticket requiring you to leave outside food or drink out of the theater or would you like the $3 ticket allowing you to bring in your own food” I would seriously respect the stipulations and be more “honest” by your standards. But if the theater is not willing to give options, I’m just as not willing to comply to the lack of options.

    These are just a few ideas I had; feel free to find holes in my logic, etc.
    Bob Caswell | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 10:38 am | #

    Bob,

    A two priced admission ticket is an option I hadn’t thought of before. Two things come quickly to my mind. We pay 35-50% of the admission price to the studios. Their lawyers have thought of all the loopholes, so there’s no getting around it.

    People have to wait in line long enough already to buy a ticket. Asking them your question would cause such a problem in the customer’s minds (“do I pay the higher price, my illegal candy is only worth $1.50….they won’t catch me….how can I be honest and just buy the cheap ticket….I’ll pay the higher price and sneak food in for all my friends who can pay the lower price….ah one cheap one for me and one high priced one for my date, no I mean the other way around…etc.”)
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 2:40 pm | #

    We are going to start offering a FREE bag of popcorn to each customer on Wednesdays. (We tried offering 1/2 price on all snack bar items on Wednesday to increase sales. It didn’t increase sales significantly. It seems like those who buy do, and those who don’t, don’t…or they sneak it in anyway)

    I’ll bet we see an increase of 2 liter soda bottles and empty pop cans on Wednesday…and not an increase in soda sales at the snack bar.

    Any “honest” Mormons want to take me up on that bet?

    PS. Bob how interested are you really in owning a theater?
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 2:46 pm | #

    I haven’t seen that the issue of how candy and soda are priced has been dealt with here much. What justifies the super-high prices? Tradition? Everyone expects the prices to be high? Does that really make it ok?

    I’ve never really felt that the prices were downright immoral and I usually pay them … but since snack-sneakers are being called dishonest I’d like to hear the justification for charging patrons so much more than what the actual candy/food is worth.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 4:00 pm | #

    Let me explain the economics from an owner’s point of view. Profit!

    A regular first run theater pays the studio film rental for showing that studio’s film. The rental is usually on a sliding scale. Depending on the studio and how great the movie is supposed to be this can start at 90% the first week and then drop to 80%, 70%, 60%, 50% then the 35% for the remainder of the weeks.

    Obviously the majority of the people see the movie in the first couple of weeks. Even if you are at 80% and your ticket price is $10.00 that means, as the owner we get $2.00 per person.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 5:58 pm | #

    At first run theaters, for every ticket you also sell an average of about $2.50 at the snack bar. Their food costs are about 25% so they get another $1.88 per customer. A total of $3.88 for every person who walks thru the door.

    That might sound like a lot, but try and pay overhead (rent on a big multi-plex can be $35,000-$50,000 per month) labor, advertising, utilities, equipment repair etc. etc.

    That’s why most of the big theater companies are not making a ton of money…check out their stock and see.

    If it weren’t for the snack-bar profits they’d be broke.

    If truth were known it’s the studios that cause such high snack bar prices. If the film rental were 35% all the time, then the theater owners could sell large popcorns for $1.00.
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 6:04 pm | #

    Lastly, for discount operators like me, we pay 50%, 40% and then 35% on most of the better movies.

    Because of our discount nights and other promotions we average .90 per ticket sold, so we get about .55.

    Our snack bar prices are noticably lower (not cheap) compared to first run theaters. Our food costs are about 32%. In most locations we would get $1.50 – $1.60 at the snack bar for every ticket sold.

    In Utah we get .83 per ticket. So our profit per person is about $1.11. Try and be profitable at that!

    Figure out the difference in profitablity by operating outside of Utah compared to in. WOW!
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.05.04 – 6:12 pm | #

    Hey Don, thanks for the very detailed analysis. That was very useful reading. I’ll be more sympathetic to theater owners in the future and more strict in my personal behavior (though, as I’ve said a few times, I haven’t been much of a snack-sneaker).

    Make that an EXTRA LARGE soda, two boxes of candy and a large popcorn for me.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 10.06.04 – 4:53 pm | #

    Okay, my question to the owner: If you lowered the price of your concessions, or even the size that regular stores carry – wouldn’t you sell more or at least what they bring in from the outside? I have always wanted to give that kind of advice. I wouldn’t mind paying 4.50 for a Bucket of popcorn if it was flavored. Or 3.50 for candy – if it was See’s or Godiva. It’s value not quantity. I still think you’re better off selling the regular store stuff. A new theatre in town is doing that and they have no problems with outside stuff.
    cooper | Email | Homepage | 10.06.04 – 5:44 pm | #

    Don,
    I don’t mean to be unsympathetic to your plight, but I’m one of those people who will see a movie but never buy concessions. Sure, sometimes I get a popcorn, but I’ll never buy soda or candy because it’s outrageously priced (instead I pay a quarter or whatever for a small cup with ice). With those who are sneaking food in, that’s a function of high prices creating a black market in your theatre. They choose to be inconvinienced by going to Wal-Mart because the costs associated with buying at your theatre aren’t worth the benefits of convinience. Lower concession prices combined with a greater variety of food (some real stuff instead of just junk food) would lower your margins, but increase your inventory turnover, and that could increase your total revenue and profit.
    Beau | Email | Homepage | 10.06.04 – 6:08 pm | #

    As a point of information. For the first 4 months we were opened we offered 1/2 price on all of our snack bar items on Wednesdays. That made our bottomless tub of popcorn (refillable as many times as you want) only $2.25 and our largest soda $1.25.

    You know what, we sold a bit more at the snack bar, but not enough to make up the difference in the lost profit. AND surprisingly it didn’t decrease the empty wrappers, 2 liter bottles and pop cans left in the theater by those sneaking things in!!

    Explain that!! I can’t.

    But I do know if we kept the prices at 1/2 price everyday and saw the same results we would have closed down.
    don | Email | Homepage | 10.06.04 – 9:32 pm | #

    Don,
    I’m so glad you brought this topic up! I’ve loved everyone’s thoughts. This is something that has baffled me a lot. Not that I have lived a perfectly honest life, but I do feel guilty about those “little” lies or deceptions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with wonderful people who don’t seem to think twice about using a friend’s zoo pass or sneaking food into the theatre or a friends’ pottery barn discount. etc. The justificiation I hear is that these minor deceptions are really not hurting these businesses. First of all, how do we really know that? Secondly, our kids who we are constantly teaching to be honest are usually watching us do the exact opposite. It’s a real problem, but one that doesn’t even seem to be on the radar for a lot of us.
    Andrea Wright | Email | Homepage | 10.07.04 – 4:42 pm | #

    Could that have been because of either intertia or people not getting the promo? It could be to the point now where when you go to the theatre, you know to sneak in something extra if you want candy because you’ll pay too much there. Even with your half price Wednesdays, it wasn’t enough to overcome the misconception. It could also be because people didn’t plan on half price Wednesdays because they didn’t get that that would be the case. I will tell you that I’d buy a lot more theatre food at those prices. $2.25 for popcorn is a fantastic deal, as is the $1.25 for a soda.
    Beau | Email | Homepage | 10.08.04 – 5:43 pm | #

    I was at a friend’s house this past weekend and there was a book on a table there titled: “The Good, The Bad and the Difference” by Randy Cohen. I picked up the book and read the back cover and one of the questions it asked about morality in everyday situations was whether it was ok to sneak snacks into a movie theater.

    I didn’t get a chance to read anything more but I’ll get around to it. I just thought whatever the book says might be of interest.

    If I get around to it and there’s anything thoughtful or interesting there on the question, I might revisit this thread.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 02.03.05 – 12:33 am | #

    Comment by Comment Restore — November 28, 2005 @ 12:44 am

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