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