Free Markets, Free People

Concession prices too high at theaters? Then don’t buy them

But suing to make the theaters reduce the price?  Really?

Joshua Thompson loves the movies.

But he hates the prices theaters charge for concessions like pop and candy.

This week, the 20-something security technician from Livonia decided to do something about it: He filed a class action in Wayne County Circuit Court against his local AMC theater in hopes of forcing theaters statewide to dial down snack prices.

"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."

I usually don’t go to movies. Believe it or not, since I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to get motion sickness in a theater if there is a lot of action on the screen.  It’s weird but that happens to me (also happens with first person shooter games). 

But, when I did go, I never went to the concession stand.  I agree with Thompson, prices are too high and I’m not willing to pay them.  However, I’m also not willing to use the force of government to “force” prices down, for heaven sake.

The way consumers make this point is to quit buying the stuff.  Yeah, it takes will.  It takes perseverance.  It takes a collective action over time.  But what it should never take is bringing government in to it.

The suit accused AMC theaters of violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by charging grossly excessive prices for snacks.

The suit seeks refunds for customers who were overcharged, a civil penalty against the theater chain and any other relief Judge Kathleen Macdonald might grant.

So who gets to decide what is a fair price?  A judge?  Or the consumer?   How does the consumer decide what a “fair price” is?  By not paying what he or she considers to be an unfair price.  That’s how.  Not by going to the state and attempting to use its power to force a lower price.

No one forces anyone to go to a movie, pay what they’re asking or eat their snacks.  Everyone of those is an individual decision and choice. Just as we decide not to buy other products we can’t afford or think are priced too high, it is up to us to make the same sort of decision at a theater concession stand.   If enough refuse to buy, it will eventually come to the attention of the theater chains.  That’s how pricing is set by markets (you know, all that talk about pricing signals and such?).  And the state has no business being involved in that system whatsoever, either legislatively or judicially (and the law suit probably won’t go anywhere, I understand that, but I’m addressing the mindset).


Twitter: @McQandO

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19 Responses to Concession prices too high at theaters? Then don’t buy them

  • IIRC, most theaters make the lions share of their money at the concession stand. So if this guy’s suit is successful and they theaters can’t keep charging high prices at the concession stand then the most likely result will be closed theaters.

    I don’t go to the theaters either. They are too expensive and there are too many rude people. I’ll simply wait for a movie to come out on DVD and I’ll watch it at home on my big screen TV. At $15 for a DVD it is just cheaper and more convenient.

    • @tkc882 Almost. It’s only during the first few weeks of the first run – when movies make 90% of their theater gross – that theaters don’t make more than a pittance per showing. So it means that every theater would become a dollar theater, with no first runs, or ticket prices would quadruple.

      • @JeffMedcalf I was reading that many of the big money making movies will negotiate that they get 90% of the gross in the first week, so a $8.00 ticket sends $7.20 to the producers with a mere $0.80 going to the theater. The percentage goes down each week after that.

  • First person shooters – you too? As for Thompson….well I guess he can sue, but I’m not sure what his basis is. But hey, why not man, we’re demanding insurance companies pay for protection from the results of recreational sex, why not demand theaters charge prices we like! Who knew we had so many rights! It’s just awesome!
    Funny we don’t seem worried about piddly ones like, the right of the government to kill citizens without judicial oversight or the right to be secure in our persons and possessions from unwarranted search, just to name a couple.

  • Yeah, I’m a dollar movie guy, but I haven’t been to one of those in a coon’s age. Now that I watch my starch intake, I seldom eat pop-corn, and I don’t drink the half-gallon soda, either. But sometimes…

    Last movie I saw in a theater was the True Grit remake, and I had sweet potato fries and a gin and tonic.

    I hope the judge bounces this idiot suit and awards attorney fees to theater.

  • I don’t understand for the life of me why anyone wants to go to a theater anyway. Pay too much, sit with a bunch of cretins who have no consideration for others in a dark place most likely infested with bed bugs. But hey….people for some reason choose to go, which means that this nitwit who filed the suit needs to be declared legally stupid like Al Bundy.

    • @The Shark I feel sorry for you – I live in a place with a theater that charges $5 entrance, have really comfortable seats (you can lean back, there’s lots of leg room), popcorn costs $2, $3 or $5 (for a big bowl). Sodas are cheap too, candy is about what you’d pay at a convenience store. The movies tend to be packed, it’s a good deal.

      • @scotterb I bet the curling sheet is JAMMED, too…!!! Is Stagecoach still playing up there…???

        • @Ragspierre And it’s 72 “-” characters if you don’t want it to run off the side of the page on the right when you’re forcing your visual paragraph break. By God, we WILL tame this thing, because that’s what Americans DO!

      • @scotterb Not going to the Narrow Gage? or using your UMF id for a discount? Price lists at $6.00 for an adult ticket. – 7 screens and all. Or are you driving over to Waterville or Skowhegan.
        This internet thingie is fascinating.

        • @looker Oh yeah, the price of tickets did go up a buck. It’s still cheap (and there are matinees for less than $5). Of course our ski mountain is an even better deal (and that’s where I was this afternoon – nothing beats New England winter beauty).

        • @scotterb Well, mark that down as another thing we can agree on Professor, especially on a sunny morning after a new overnight fluury, one that’s a little damp so it sticks to the trees, but not the kind that cracks the limbs all to perdition.
          Yeah, we can agree on that.

        • @looker Politics isn’t everything. wednesdays they have night skiing and we were on the slopes from 3:20 to 7:30 (pick the kids up at school, drive ten minutes to the mountain). Best conditions of the year.

  • What are you guys idiots? 90% of the ticket goes back to the studios. They are concessionaires. That’s the business model. Any money they make is off the concessions. It’s hard enough for them to stay in business.

    • @walleye I don’t think any of us were in favor of the lawsuit….not sure if that makes us idiots What was said was it’s not the government’s job to intervene here.
      And I’m pretty sure we’re all aware of how the theater is making it’s actual profit.