The Popcorn Revolution

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

Joshua Thompson, 20-ish, of Livonia, Michigan loves the movies, but could not understand why his soda pop  and candy purchase rang up the till for another $8.00 on top of the price of admission.  In the same cinema, popcorn and a soda can run you $11.00. Rather than just griping, he filed a consumer class action suit in Wayne County (Michigan) Circuit Court on behalf of us all to get some answers.

The suit “seeks refunds for customers who were overcharged” and “a civil penalty against the theater chain.””He got tired of being taken advantage of,” said Thompson’s lawyer, Kerry Morgan of Wyandotte. “It’s hard to justify prices that are three- and four-times higher than anywhere else.”

Not so to American Multi Cinema (AMC) that operates his local theater. They had no comment on the suit, but a representative of the National Association of Theater Owners in Washington, D.C., angrily hung up the phone on a reporter from the Detroit Free Press when he simply asked about the reason for the markup on concessions.

Thompson wasn’t rash in bringing the suit, first trying to bring his own soda and candy to the theatre. AMC would have none of it and banned the profit-reducing “contraband.”

Most Michigan court watchers predict a losing effort for Thompson though. Protecting consumers is passe’ in the Republican-dominated Michigan Supreme Court. Gary Victor, an Eastern Michigan University business law professor said the case was likely a “loser.” In Michigan, theaters are a regulated business. Victor pointed to two state Supreme Court decisions in 1999 and 2007 which exempted most regulated businesses from the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. And we all know how conservatives “regulate” business. Thompson and his lawyer press on nonetheless.

Theater owners blame the high concession prices on declining ticket sales in the tight economy and rising costs. With the advent of NetFlix and other on-line movie providers, things can’t be rosy for the industry. Nationally, movie ticket sales are down — 1.2 billion tickets were sold last year compared with 1.6 billion in 2002. Still one wonders how you get gold from a throttled goose.

My last experience in a theater wasn’t pleasant. Amid the hubbub of talking teenagers, ringing cell phones, and fellow patrons snaking through the rows of seats or the aisles during most every scene of the movie, I welcomed the chance to get to the lobby to be taken advantage of by the $7.00 popcorn and $5.00 sodas.

Here’s a thought: reduce concession prices, ban ringing cell phones, police talkative patrons, and maybe the experience will be pleasant enough to bring people and their kids back from their dens and into the theaters again.

Source: Detroit Free Press

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

88 thoughts on “The Popcorn Revolution”

  1. The world does change. Many years ago when I lived in NYC there was a theater vicinity 96th and Broadway. I must have been unemployed at the time because I am pretty sure it was mid afternoon when I watched a French comedy of errors from the 30’s.

    A few rows in front of me was a woman who was making her own special drinks. I could hear her cracking raw eggs and smell the distinct odor of brewers yeast. I am not sure what she poured in over the top of her special ingredients to complete her health drink.

    I can’t prove it and we will never know for sure, but I am pretty sure she was not making anything to compete with what they were selling at the concession stand.

    There were not any ‘boxes’. To the contrary what I wished for was a little more light to verify what I might be sitting on and in places one’s feet tended to stick to the floor. And the theater itself must have been the size of an aircraft hangar.

    Even then the concessions were over priced – but nobody said anything if you brought your own.

    Any body got any venture capital? We might develop a business model to compete against the multiplex theaters.

  2. Bron 1, April 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm


    any business has a right to charge whatever they want for any service or commodity. Gas, electricity, oil, food, health care and other so called “necessities” are not guaranteed rights.

    Actually that isn’t true. At least not anywhere in the US where I’ve lived. Utility prices are often regulated. They are the exception to the rule because they need to be. Being regulated is part of the price to pay for the monopoly.

  3. Blouise and idealist, My husband bought a coffee roaster and roasts his own to save money. BTW, it’s not that great. I have to sneak a few bags in but I drink more tea. Have been drinking iced coffee in warm weather. Buy it in bottles from an organic fair trade company in Austin.

  4. Blouise,
    You’ve inspired me. Buying pure originals and mixing them never occurred. I’m obviously a piker trying different Italian expresso blends.

    Next you’ll tell me you have a wine store with 110 countries assortment.
    While the world starves, you and I stuff ourselves. Why not, life was meant to enjoy, plus a pittance to some donation——a very small one in my case, stingy old man, I am, I am.

  5. BFM,
    Of course, the swedish is rather rudimentary being so concise to the point of guaranteeing missing all nuances. Can’t tax the reading (or comprehension) speeds of our elders. The youth polish their American accents as they all can speak American already. Fortunately, it seems to result in non-exotica, which could have been a danger. But not being aware of your exotic languages, seeing very few examples here and not watcing such films, I can’t really judge.

  6. BFM,
    Forgot to mention: you’ll learn the spoken swedish from the robots who present the news, and children shows which are dubbed. Of course, the after noon blackandwhities from the 39-40 decades will let you study old-timey class differentiation, and other fine points of language development.
    Surely enough to let you get a doctorate. Look for employent at some obscure university in Minnesota.

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