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August 26, 2008


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Just in case you all don't know there are at least some football stadiums where you are not allowed to bring in ANYTHING to eat or drink, including water OR an empty container to hold water. And football games last a good three plus hours. Since all carry in backpacks and purses are searched it is pretty hard to smuggle anything in.
So not just a problem at movie theaters.

I worked at an AMC theater at one point. Their official policy was outside food is allowed to be brought in as long as it doesn't smell. (No pizzas, etc.)

Some of the comments on here are ridiculous.

Regardless, whether it's ethical or not I don't care, I'm not paying $5 for a 2oz package of gummy bears. I'm going to sneak in some bottle caps to movies now and then, and not feel an iota of guilt.

There's also the very crazy notion that maybe you could just watch the movie without eating anything for that 2-hour period.

I grew up going to the movies a lot and we always got treats. As an adult, I realized I didn't need any of that crap anyway. It's only a couple of hours!

Sneaking? I've walked in brazenly holding food/candy/pop before at both the AMC and MJR theaters nearby, and haven't been told anything. In fact, I can't recall seeing a sign that specifically says "No outside food or drink".

Fact is, many times the high-school kids the theaters employ will rarely challenge you, at least in my experience. They play off of the fact that people think it isn't okay. I'll bring in my own 20oz of pop and box of candy if I plan in advance. If I'm with friends seeing a movie on a whim, and I am downright famished, I'll buy from the concession stand.

I'm curious - what's so unthinkable about simply not eating or drinking anything while you watch the movie? It's only for a couple of hours.

I'm lucky enough to live in NC where the price of a matinee is only $6 at some theaters. Still, I bring my own food or Nalgene of water not only because the prices are too inflated, but because they're simply unhealthy. My favorite theater is located next to our local whole foods co-op, and I usually pick up a bag of berries or a healthful nutrition bar for a fraction of the price and calories I would expend at the concession stand.

I have to add that people should be cautious about using the term "unethical" just because they feel the movie theaters charge too much for their snacks.

As you'll learn in any ethics class, "ethics", at it's core, has to do with promise keeping, honoring an agreement you have made. The morality or immorality of our decisions is related directly to the commitments we have made to do or NOT do certain things.

It is in NO WAY "unethical" for a movie theater to charge $3 or $30 or even $300 for a bag of popcorn. Is it outrageous? Absolutely! But it is NOT unethical. They state the price up front. You know when you walk into the theater that the popcorn will be expensive. You do NOT require the popcorn to enjoy the movie. You do not even require the popcorn to be healthier or happier in general.

If you KNOW that the movie theater has a rule against outside food or drink, and you sneak it in anyway, then the only person who has done someone unethical is you.

Now, in the grand scheme of all that is ethical and unethical, a hidden bag of candy at a movie theater just isn't a big deal.

But if we're talking terminology here, it's completely inappropriate to say that our own failure to follow the rules is the "fault" of the movie theaters who charge so much for snacks. No, it's OUR fault for not being adults and just following the rules.

Lots of discussion. I feel like my comment will never be read. I say that if you feel the need to hide it than it's probably unethical. That's why we bring in our snacks and drinks in the wide open (usually bottles of water and Zone bars) for the ticket takers to see. And we never get stopped.

And it's ridiculous to say that the movie theater's business isn't movies. If they weren't showing movies no one would ever buy a $7 bag of popcorn from them. It's a lousy business model but we all get suckered in because "the movies" are an experience that we enjoy.

It's a sign of brilliantly successful marketing that so few people on this thread even suggest the possibility of watching a movie in a theater without food or drink of any kind. The only two choices are buy from the concession stand at high prices or sneak it in.

The idea that movie theaters are "unethical" in charging high prices is just silly. A private company has the right to charge whatever it chooses for the products it sells. The only time this can even come into question is when you've got a monopoly (over an entire industry and/or geographic area - not inside the movie theater) or if you're selling something vital to life. Even then it's a discussion of "how much capitalism is too much?" If you have a medical condition that will put your life in danger without Sno-Caps for two hours, then I'm sure the manager will let you bring your own.

Personally, I just don't eat at the theater. I go rarely (pretty much only for "event" movies that are worth the extra time and money to see on the big screen vs. waiting for the DVD), and when I do I like to make a day of it with a meal before or after.

I think ultimately it's not unethical to sneak in food. You pay for the movie, and that's the service you expect. By paying for the movie, you can't be forced to agree to only have one choice for food and drink options.

Some commenters are relating it to situations that are clearly stealing. Bringing in your own food isn't stealing, and if you take it to the trash yourself, you're not causing any extra trouble for the workers. The theatres are trying to make a mini-monolpoly with these policies, and there's a reason why monopolies are not acceptable.

As for the stadium issue, I just went to a SF Giants game and brought in a 32 oz bottle of Mt Dew. Nobody checked. Go figure.

I guess I could bludgeon somebody with a plastic bottle if I so's a stupid policy. And just try to keep out my baby supplies (milk, juice, and water) -- you WILL let me in. Else it becomes a PR nightmare for you.

I'm as frugal and cost-conscious as anyone, but these comments about how the movie theaters are themselves unethical for charging such high prices are annoying. Movie theaters are not tax-supported government entities, nor are they non-profits. Consumers don't have some sort of right to buy things at cost, only the right to decide if they want to buy it at all. If you think movie theater food is too expensive, then don't buy it! If you think movies in theaters are a rip-off, wait for the DVD. We're not talking food or medical care here, people.

Why don't you call all the theaters in your area and see if one allows outside food brought in? That would be a theater worth giving your business.

The new AMC in an upscale mall where I live now allows you to bring in food from the food court (which is right next to the theater). I'm not sure how/why they allow this; maybe they cut a deal with some of the venders there because their traffic has picked up so much since the theater was built.

Also, there are several independent movie theaters in my town where you can buy alcohol (including martinis in martini glasses) and gourmet food and snacks at "concessions" and take them in. It's just as marked up as in a restaurant, but I don't mind paying since I go there for the experience.

I sneak in candy, but I always buy popcorn and beverages at the concession stand. I just can't swallow paying $4 for a $1 box of Junior Mints. But I justify myself by knowing that the theater will make money off my popcorn/Diet Coke purchase. I know theaters make a lot of their revenue from concession sales, and I do love to go to the movies. But as another poster pointed out, it's becoming cost-prohibitive to take a family of 4 out to a movie after purchasing tickets and snacks for everyone. What a shame that a night out has to cost so much.

Good job posting something that will start a comment war. ;)

Crafty ... and not unethical either!

(the post, not the snack issue - I don't have an opinion on that)

Depends on what food you are taking though...If it is popcorn then no problems...But what if it is food with some strong aromas...Might not go well in a theater.

Interesting question and discussion a see a lot of people questioning if its ethical to charge as much as they do for the price of a movie and concessions but the reality is that you don't need to buy either the ticket or concessions. You're paying for something that in reality is nothing more than a luxury.

On the question of bringing food in most theatres don't care even if you're obvious about it. The goal of the signage is to try goading you into purchasing their overpriced items rather than trying to save a few bucks. I do have to agree with the lawyer that you're going to do use a theatre you should technically abide by their rules. I really don't think its a matter of ethics when it really comes down to it... the people who bring a snack in because the concessions are overpriced are simply not likely to buy them if they have to pay the theatre prices and by bringing them in they're not actually hurting anyone.

This whole idea really falls into the same gray area of is it unethical to go 1mph over the speed limit - when it comes down to it the impact is so minimal that it doesn't make a difference. The people who bring in their food will continue to do so and the people who buy concession food will also continue to do so. If its too pricey then simply don't go and rent the movie from the library for free going to the movies is a form of paid entertainment that is a luxury or frivolous expense.

Nice title. Good luck in the contest.

Is it ethical.

Probably not

Should you do it


What if you want to eat something they don't sell? What if you like black licorice, but they only sell red. is it still unethical.
What if you are diabetic and can only eat sugar free candy?
What if your 3 year old drinks apple juice while watching the latest kids movie. The theatre doesn't sell apple juice. Am I still unethical.

Is it then ok?

My opinion. don't steal. However, as long as you bought your ticket, if you bring in personal items, that is your business. ethical or not.

I think the question should be the other way round: Is it ethical that the movie theaters industry forces us to buy only from inside? I mean where's the free market there?

Snacks stores in food theaters should be placed there only for convenience if you're too lazy or forgot to buy from your favorite food store or you don't want to walk outside and you buy from inside. Usually people like to consume very near from the spot they bought and that's how this should work.

Ethical is not a word I would use......Logical and Appropriate would be the right word.

Now, there are 2 sides. Is it logical and appropriate to charge $10.50 for popcorn and coke? No. Similarly, is it logical and appropriate to take Chinese food, Subway Sandwich and Wine into a theater. No.

Having said that, since it does NOT say when you enter the theater or buy tickets, that you cannot take food/drink in there, I feel that it is OK to take frozen pizza, candy, water/coke-can, cookies/biscuits in limited 'snacking' quantity with you. When there is a sign out there, it will require 'sneaking' it in. What is logical here is we are taking things that we like, have at home and one that does not make noise inside the theater (bag of chips that are noisy is NOT OK).

What about Drive-in Theaters? Perfectly OK to take non-alcoholic stuff.

What about sneaking to watch movie # 2 without paying for it, when the 1st one is finished? Perfectly Illegal here! Do it at your own high-risk for saving 10 bucks (NOT worth it).

Thanks for listening.

Kenny (KKP)

Wow. Lots of discussion!

It's about your disposition. Ignoring the ethical question, we can safely assume that those who sneak food in aim to deceive. That much is clear.

Isn't this a Christian blog? Which disposition will get you closer to Heaven, more closely representing your dignity? A disposition oriented toward deceit? Or one oriented toward integrity?

Remember, small things lead to greater things. Demonstrate to God that you can be trusted in small things, and He will entrust to you greater things.

Yes, this is a small thing. But consider it a small test. A small opportunity to practice virtue and give glory to God.

Love you all! Keep up the good fight.

Good question!
First off, sneaking implies dishonesty imo, so if you have to sneak something into a place, ethics are probably being ignored.

That said, I remember stopping at Ben Franklin on our way to the theatre as a kid and picking up a bag of penny candy. That's just what everyone did.

If a place has it posed - no outside food or beverages - the answer is pretty clear. If there's no sign...I bring it with me in clear sight.

Remember, ethics is what you'd do if no one was watching.

Loring Parks at More Fun Than A Silk Teddy

A ProBlogger entry

I bring in my own candy because they don't carry the specific one I like (nonpareils...also known as Snocaps). Other than that, I make movie-going a special treat for only now and then because of the prices, and then I budget for it so I can buy their popcorn and soda. I know this is how they make their money, so I try not to break the rules too much.

My stepson works at an AMC theater in IL and he says they "have to" allow outside food/drinks in, because everyone isn't able to consume their concession choices, due to health reasons, such as diabetics or those who cannot have caffeinated drinks. I asked him if that was state or federal law now; he said he didn't know.

I went to a movie here in Atlanta a few weeks ago w/a friend; hadn't been in 1-1/2 years; cost my friend $10 to get in & me $8 ('cause I'm a "senior" at 60); I needed a bottle of water (per my M.D.'s instructions to stay hydrated for a medical condition), which cost me $4.95!! I think that's outrageous!!! Enjoyed the movie (Sex & the City), but could just as well have seen it a few weeks later on dvd.

Just my 2 cents!

Yes, I think it is unethical. Still I curse these fellows who charge a lot more than it should be reasonable.

I only see movies when the kids want to see them, and we end up spending a lot on the pop corn and colas.

OK, this is not so much about the ethics of taking refreshments into a movie as about an argument a lot of you are making.

"But if everyone did that then they wouldn't make money and there would be no movie theatres( or more likely, they would charge more for the tickets)"

This is true of a lot of things, people. For example, coupons or loss leaders. If everyone came into a grocery store and bought just the loss leaders, then the grocery stores would stop offering them. Does that make it wrong to just buy the loss leaders?

Of course not. If taking food and drink into a movie is wrong, then it's because it violates their posted rules. I can't actually remember seeing a posted "no outside food or drinks" sign at our movie theatre, but we don't go very often and I probably didn't look very hard. If there's no sign, I have no problem with having a can or two and some candy in my purse. And if they do have a sign, I'd probably feel the urge to talk to a manager. I don't see movies much at the theatre anyway... it's such a waste of money even if you don't get refreshments.

"I got thrown out of the theater for bringing in my own food. My argument was: 'The concession stand prices are outrageous. Besides, I haven't had a bar-b-que in a long time."

-- Steven Wright

I figure that if there's no way I'm going to buy food AT the theatre (and I'm not - I'd rather not eat anything at all than pay $8 for food & a soda), then what's the harm in stimulating the economy somewhere else (ie: RiteAid, where we stocked up on theatre size boxes of candy when they were on sale for $1/ea!).

We live in little suburia and there's no "sneaking" involved. It's not just us but a huge majority of people bring their own food and bev. We clean up our trash when the movie is over and in the past 5 years of doing this we've never been stopped or questioned about.

We always do it. What isn't ethical is charging such over inflated prices at the theatres. If their prices were more in line with the true cost, I wouldn't have a problem buying their food. With my son however, we always bring in his food. He is 6 and has SEVERE food allergies. I walk right in with his food, was only stopped once and told I could not bring outside food in. I asked for a manager who was less then thrilled to even address this issue with me until I told him I would have his theatre in court and all over the news for discrimination against those with medical conditions. It was then, when he changed his tune and let me go. I often wonder why no one has sued over this.

it is ethical, because it is more ethical than the prices charged by the theater. the theater is run my corporate bigots, and have monopolized the market and charge an arm and a leg. a soda should be 1.50 NOT 5.50! as is popcorn, candy ect.. as long as they feel that it is fair or effective to charge three times the value i will continue to feel this way and bring my own food and drink in.

I think that consumers should be treated well. I feel that it's unethical for businesses to forbid their customers to bring in food from home or from another establishment. A paying customer should be treated with respect and made to feel comfortable and appreciated in the establishment he/she is at. In this way, the customer will keep going back to the establishment. Isn't that what every business owner wants: to keep their customers satisfied so that they can make more money?

I was at a Hondo's Center department store cafe today. As my husband was in line to get some coffee and water, I treated myself to the delicious donut we had just bought before going into the department store cafe.

I was rudely approached by an employee who said that I was not allowed to be eating outside food. I told her that we're paying customers and that my husband was actually in line waiting to order. She persisted. I then went to the manager to complain. She agree with her employee. I feel that this is unfair treatment. Isn't there something that us consumers can do to stop this mistreatment? How can we have more power, as consumers? I just can't deal with things that are unfair. I am sorry, but what is one donut going to do to Hondo's Center (or any other department store for that matter). They make a lot of money. I mean isn't the money that they make from us? I don't understand these empty and unfair rules.

I welcome any kind of feedback you may have. Thanks, Tina:)

i love popcorn but im fatttt

I found this page while trying to find out if it's illegal to bring in outside food. I couldn't believe how many Lawyer websites I found with lawyers telling each other to follow the rules of "no outside food" at the theater. I still couldn't find a law. I then wondered if it was legal to enforce 'rules' like that in the first place. If there isn't legislation passed to prevent you from bringing in your own food, than screw their rules. They are obviously designed to get as much money out of you as possible. Which is obviously unethical.

They make so much off the ticket that you should be allowed to bring in your own snacks. If they want people to stop bringing in food, they need to be more reasonable with prices. The only thing unethical about this situation is how much the theaters charge.

I agree with the last poster. I recently took my 12 year old son to a movie and we shared a large combo, 2 large drinks and a large popcorn. It cost me 14.50. I could have purchased five two liters of pop and a bag of my own popping corn for what they charged. They have stopped serving refills on pop. Movies make a great deal of money off of the advertisements that are shown at the beginning of the movie. When they post signs that say no outside food or drinks I see this as having a duel purpose, probably the main reason is to force you to purchase their highly overpriced snacks. The only other reason that may have some validity to me would be the safety aspect of it. If glass bottles were brought in and dropped on the floor serious injury could occur or possibly the consumption of alcoholic beverages would likely not be desired. These problems could easily be remedied by posting a sign saying no glass containers or alcoholic beverages. As the previous poster said and I agree, "The only thing unethical about this situation is how much the theaters charge." Sales at the concessions would probably hold their own if prices were dropped as more people would forgo the extra trip to Walgreens for candy and buy it at the theater.

Is this really an issue?
So, what if a theatre employee detects ones snack contraband? What are the consequences? Will the perpetrator be ejected from the theatre? Will their snacks be confiscated?
Does the theatre want to do this to me and lose me as a customer forever? Not a sound business model.

Did not read earlier posts because of their length, so I don't know if this has been said yet. But trust me, the movie theaters are doing their best. They make NO money from tickets. 9 x however many people see a movie on box office - that equals up to the total they bought the movie for, on a good day. They have to overprice concessions to stay in buissiness, but don't feel bad about sneeking. Enough people buy from them that its no problem for us sneakier costumers.

Ethical? Truth is, when a new movie comes out, the theater has to pay up to 80% of ticket revenues to the movie companies. So your $10 ticket only nets the company $2 (before any expenses are taken out). As the movie is in theaters longer that percentage drops. Therefore in order to stay open and no charge crazy amounts for their tickets they have to increase the cost of buying food inside in order to stay in operation. Also, and more importantly so, it is a health code violation. They have received permission from the state to sell those items. Any foreign, or outside food or beverage, that can cause contaimination is a liability for them. For instance, if they do not sell peanuts in their theater and you sneak some in, then the person (who you dont know) is sitting next to you is highly allergic, you could seriously hurt or kill them and it would be partially the theater's fault. If they do not sell them, they've probably assured that person that they are going to be okay in the theater because they do not sell that product.

I gave blood once and i got a free movie ticket, so after giving blood i went to the movies i was told by a HEALTH professorial to drink juice and plenty of it to get my suger back up. when i got in the theater the ticket boy refused to let me in with it after speaking to the manager who agian refused and they refused to give me my ticket back i called thier corp. office right then and there know what they said let her in and your both fired. to be honest i was glad that happened i am not a evil or synnical person but when someone tells you they have a item for medical purposes you dont say to bad drop it or leave.

Plain and simple it is wrong of theaters to FORCE you to buy their product in their building if you want a drink. It is not called a Concession theater its a movie theater their product is the movie.
thats my 2 cents

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