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. BFM
    I’ll trade my 50 for your 150. It’s the same stuff, only with swedish subtitiles.
    You’ll learn a new language.
    Can you imagine the time when having cable was a brag factor. Like now I guess it’s like admitting you have Alzheimers in the family,

    1. Swedish….huh? We like cultural diversity…yeah why not. But its my sisters cable so to close the deal you gotta have soaps. I think I can state with confidence: No soap operas, no deal.

      And you are right. Admitting to cable can bring up one of those awkward moments in the conversation when the other person suddenly notices someone across the room that they really, really have to talk to and takes a powder.

      Of course everything has its use. If you are really desperate to shake someone you can always pose the culturally aware question: ‘did you see cable last night, was that the biggest cat fish you have ever seen or what?’ Guaranteed to give you at least a few minutes of quiet to compose your thoughts.

      What with global warming, employment in Minnesota is looking better and better. That’s the ticket, Minnesota. Get in early before everybody realizes Minnesota is the new Miami.

  2. Jeff:

    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.

    If you cannot afford them go get charity to help you pay for them. Rights like those come at someone else’s expense.

    And at increased cost to the rest of us to provide for people who are unwilling to work. People who cannot work should be helped, all others; go get a job or start a small businesses cleaning houses or cutting grass or walking dogs, etc. Rich people have plenty of money and not enough time or inclination to do those sorts of tasks.

  3. “Gene H. 1, April 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm


    I’ve been to those kind of theaters. It is a much nicer setup.”

    It also helps you take all cost in stride.

  4. Raff, one of those maneuvers is called a Lomcovák, which can be translated from Czechoslovakian as either “headache” or “hangover.”

    Can you tell which one?

  5. Relationship is on my mother’s side of the family. Irish heritage of course. Y’know, if a snap roll does not hurt, you ain’t doing it right.

  6. I have been trying to remember the last time I went to a movie. I think it was either Top Gun or Blue Thunder, whichever one came last. I hate the prices and the fact they have cut up full size theaters into multiscreen cubicles. Did I mention the high prices? TV bores me. What to do, oh, what to do? Oh yeah, there is always this:

    Disclaimer: this is not me, but a cousin, Sean D. Tucker.

  7. id707,

    I particularly like Caribou Coffee. I usually get a Yemen Mocha Mattari, Java, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia Harrar blend in a 2lb bag and Sumatra in a 1lb bag. Have them all ground to an espresso fine grind and mixed. Great as straight espresso and holds up well in a latte. I stay clear of espresso beans of any brand. If I want a sweetener I use a rough cut Demerara sugar cube.

    For lattes I use whole milk with half & half. It froths up nicely and the taste is unbelievable. (Calories be damned)

  8. eniobob,

    I’ve been to those kind of theaters. It is a much nicer setup.

  9. Just a little FYI on theaters the one we went to the other day was redone to now a I guess boxes is the best way to describe it, the seats reclined and you had seperation from other theater goers and you had “service”you” push a button and someone comes and takes you order from a container of popcorn to a cooked meal,nice eh?

    i think most people order something cooked rather than paying $7.75 for some popcorn.

    BTW the whole set up in theater was like I said “boxes.’ Nice !!

  10. I really like beir warm, well not warm but how they brew it. With coffee, you don’t know who has pissed on the beans to weigh them down.

  11. SwM,
    I think you made the better choice. Danish is no comparison to German or Czech. But the weird stuff they have in Belgium is great if you like exotica.
    Company outing to Brugges. Great visit to brewery and restaurant ´followed by canal boat excursion. No one fell in.

  12. Blouise,
    I got the basic, two parts you screw together, with water in the bottom and coffee in the top. Ready in 3 minutes on the stove.
    What’s your favorite brand of expresso?

  13. Do you folks all have cable? Or is there anything on the net?
    The garbage on my cable in from only one distributor and is c–p.

    Maybe will visit my foreign neighbor two flights down. saw from the balcony he has a 3 satellite head parabola. Maybe he’s got something in English on it. Glad to see one proof of a foreigner in this Swedish ghetto, besides myself.

    Oh yeah, Mike S. I got the Russ Baker book today. Put it into the other bag with the ten others to read. Only 500+ pages. But exciting, you claim.
    Seems more interesting that the one about Bush written in nnnn, which is unread since 2000 which the slip attests to.. Will give you the tille and see what you think.
    Time to put my pizza in the oven. Not poor just can’t re-warm delivered pizza.
    And here’s to expresso addicts. In emergencies Nestlés powder expresso will help

    1. Yeah, my sister has cable. It seems to be 150 channels about (1) barely legal couples who love each other and want to say together despite the fact that they are pregnant, unemployed, haven’t finished their education, and seem to prefer to cheat on each other, or (2) guys that drive big trucks some where under really bad road conditions (3) or guys that repossess trucks from really angry people or (4) guys that drive fast boats and chase crocodiles, or catfish, or both and (5) police procedures that were tired in the last century. Oh! there are also some programs about guys who make guns and then shoot the guns at cars until the cars explode.

      Whoever said TV is a waste land must have missed the educational part.

      I’d write more but my program is coming on in a few minutes.

  14. Mespo: “Thanks for a wonderful example to refute your own argument. I had others but I like yours best. Are conservatives self-defeating by nature?”

    “I love conservatives. They always contradict their own arguments.”


    Normally, I’d take the conservative stand, but this is one of those occasions I’ll self-medicate with a large dose of “STFU”!

    As you know, (1) prior service, and (2) last begins with a “W”. As such, I’ve earned to be very patient, and can wait to catch anything on DVD/Blueray…

  15. Jeff:

    “Again, I am not saying that there shouldn’t be price controls for anything at all. I am just saying demanding that happen in this situation is ridiculous and counter-productive.”


    I can live with that assertion. Your blanket statements were well … surprising.

  16. Well, I kinda feel like a hypocrite since I’m ready to advocate the “trickle down” economic theory on the pricing of popcorn. It seems obvious to me that they would sell a lot more popcorn (and ensure their survival) if they would lower the price.

  17. Jeff:

    They seem to be more than just a business that should be able to charge what they want.

    They also hold themselves out as open to the public. It is not a private club. Why should they be able to restrict what one takes into the theater. Why should the state provide the opportunity for a business to create its own monopoly market?

    I might buy into the business being able to charge anything as long as a patron could take what they want into the theater.

    But I kind of like the idea of regulating the business. By that standard I think the popcorn cooks ought to be certified popcorn chefs, and the free gourmet popcorn ought to be delivered to the theater seats – no waiting in line. I know there a naysayers among you who will point out there is ‘no free lunch’. But what I am suggesting is at most a ‘free snack’. Bon Appetit.

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