Concession History

posted by Michael Zoldessy on July 2, 2007 at 4:00 pm

A nice article from Slate tells the story of the rise in popularity of theater concessions. Contrary to popular, they weren’t always the backbone of a theater’s revenue like today.

What movie snack you choose to indulge in is not a decision to treat lightly. When else is it socially acceptable to consume 8 ounces of Reese’s Pieces by yourself? And yet few among us spend much time dithering at the concession stand. Maybe you’re a Raisinets guy. Or perhaps you prefer the salty magic of popcorn. Elaine Benes is a Jujyfruits kind of gal. Me, I’m a Red Vines person trapped in a Twizzlers world.

Whatever our concession allegiances, they tend to be deeply ingrained. And for most, a trip to Live Free or Die Hard won’t be complete without some goodies, even if it’s the kind of goody we might otherwise avoid—particularly at such egregious prices. How exactly did we form this cultural habit? Today, concessions are the lifeblood of the theater business: According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, they account for approximately 40 percent of theaters' net revenue. But it wasn’t always this way.

For the full story, go to Slate.

Story submitted by Bryan Krefft

Comments (9)

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on July 2, 2007 at 4:17 pm

It amazes me, still, that despite the absolutely outrageous prices of concession stand food, people are still willing to shell out their hard-earned cash for it. I used to enjoy movie popcorn more than any other choice, but given its high price and the fact that many theater chain do not even pop it fresh anymore, I prefer to bring snacks from the outside into the theater with me.

A can of soda and a bag of snacks from any nearby pharmacy will run me just under $4.00. That will hardly buy a child’s size popcorn in the theater today!

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on July 2, 2007 at 6:18 pm

I’ll pay the excessive prices at a locally-owned independent theatre, because I know they need the money. But if I’m going to AMC or a big chain, I usually stop first at CVS or 7-Eleven to buy soda or candy.

TheaterBuff1 on July 3, 2007 at 7:02 am

Now with the increasing reliance on ethanol forcing corn prices higher (even though hydrogen I.C.E. was the much better choice and was all set to go till stupidity put a stop to it) it won’t make good economic sense much longer for popcorn to remain the standard movie theater concession staple it traditionally has been all these many years.

But rather than candy emerging triumphant on the next leg ahead, could future movie theatergoers be sold on the idea of pretzels or potato chips becoming the next movie theater concession standard? For wheat and potato prices look like they’re to remain stable for now, along with salt itself, while regarding anything with sugar that’s hard to say — it being another source of biofuel, as is the case in Brazil now. Of course in cases where farmers can grow corn instead of wheat or potatoes, and the pressure is on them to do that, that could reduce wheat and potato supply, hence forcing the price of that to go up also. The “Domino Principle” if you will, and all tracing back to the holding back of hydrogen I.C.E. Plus, a refusal on the part of our government to allow farmers to own and operate their land tax-exempt — all for the sake of keeping new housing starts going strong.

And alas, movie theaters, though at times they might appear to be a world unto themselves and above all the everyday fray we go to these theaters to get away from, are a part of this world after all. As revealed by the skyrocketing popcorn prices at their in-house concession stands.

Bloop on July 16, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Concession stand prices in movie theaters SKY-ROCKETED in the Regan 1980’s and never slowed down. Today, the price is obscene (mainly the popcorn issue, as to how actually cheap it is, per pound, when you visit the supermarket). But who goes to the movie theater to eat? Have dinner first.

TheaterBuff1 on July 17, 2007 at 8:54 am

I fully agree, dinner and movies don’t mix. But popcorn is something else. For how anyone can watch a movie on the big screen while not inhaling popcorn at the same time and feel they’re getting the full movie-going experience totally escapes me. And while it might well be possible to sneak in a bag of popcorn bought at a nearby 7/11 beforehand, to me the popcorn you consume at the theater must have that special fresh warmth to it, an experience you can only get by purchasing it at the theater’s in-house concession stand moments before. But part of the good experience also is not having spent an arm and a leg for that bucket of popcorn. And alas, therein lies the current dilemma…

TLSLOEWS on July 13, 2010 at 10:53 pm

As most people know the reason conncession prices are so high is that there is where theatres make their money. Even the high cost of tickets makes folks think the the theatre owner is getting rich not true most first run films pay 90 per cent of the ticket price to the movie distribitor.For instance a house takes in $1000.00 a day in ticket sales it gets to keep $100.00 and pay out $900.00 back to the movies distribitor as you can see do the math,with payroll and other expenses which are many you would not stay in business very long,that is also true why it is very hard for a single screen theatre to operate without some other sourse of income.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 13, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Tlsloews you might as well be talking Greek to those on CT that NEVER worked in a movie theatre!

TLSLOEWS on July 13, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Yeah I know, I knew you would see it thought.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on July 16, 2010 at 3:10 am

Hey,you the man,TLS.

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