Mystery Popcorn: AMC Theaters Turns Off Screens With Concession Stand Pricing

Care to guess how much your popcorn will cost? That’s what reader Gabriel had to do when he saw The Dark Knight the other day.

Last night, we went to see The Dark Knight at our local AMC. Since I bought the overpriced tickets, my cousin agreed to buy the overpriced snacks.

When we stepped up to the concession stand, however, we weren’t sure just how overpriced the snacks were because there were no posted prices. AMC had replaced the simple menus with fancy flatscreen tv’s. Most of the screens showed combo meals or their incredibly annoying flim-guy diving into popcorn. Where there should have been clearly labeled prices for individual products, however, there were only blank screens. The theater had turned those screens off.

Um, that’s a little shady, but they might have just been having technical difficulties. We suppose that’s one of the awesome perks of having useless flat screen tv menus.

Then again, maybe they did get tired of people skipping the combo meals to save money. Who knows? Nothing surprises us anymore, sadly.

It’s extremely difficult to report this sort of thing to AMC corporate (in our experience, they always forward the complaints back to the manager you’re complaining about), so if you want to report this, you’re probably going to have to call your department of consumer affairs, your state’s attorney general, or perhaps your local government.

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  1. evslin says:

    Since I bought the overpriced tickets, my cousin agreed to buy the overpriced snacks.

    Go earlier in the day, the 11:45am showing at the AMC theater I went to last weekend was a $4 matinee. That isn’t bad for a 2.5 hour movie.

  2. biikman says:

    $4 is pretty good. Central NY matinee is $7.00, evening is $9. We usually hit up a dollar store and bring our own snacks in to beat the crazy concession stand prices.

  3. illtron says:

    Is this really a consumer issue? It sounds like a technical problem. I could complain about a broken urinal in a movie theater I was in not too long ago. That seems to be about equivalent to this issue.

  4. friedgold says:

    i used to work at an amc, and i doubt they were trying to hide anything, probably just a technical issue. those flat screen tv menus always went out, and were a pain in the ass to fix.

    as an FYI, amc’s policy is to allow outside food or drink, as long as it isnt alchoholic, smelly, or in glass bottles. feel free to bring in your own microwave popcorn and snacks, and you don’t have to dump out that drink before you come in. also, stay far away from the pretzel bites…

  5. UnicornMaster says:

    Yeah, I always wondered that with the Regals and AMCs new video menu pricing (which was better than their old menu without prices at all). They can change the price of the concessions depending on time and crowd, so a midnight premier popcorn could cost you $9. Ingenious if you ask me.

  6. Prions says:

    Just went to an AMC and everything worked fine. It’s just a technical issue but anythings news for the Consumerist, eh?

  7. SuffolkHouse says:

    Tell us where you are at so that we can call these people for you.

    Contacting corporate may not help, but unleashing this swarm of killer bees on them may do the trick.

    I’m serious.

  8. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    @friedgold:
    When I worked at AMC I could buy those pretzel bites and cheese for only a buck. MMMM tasty. Almost made up for paying me minimum wage.

  9. evslin says:

    @SuffolkHouse: They’ll really have something to complain about when their (not)malfunctioning menu screens are covered in honey!

  10. y2julio says:

    Don’t see whats so difficult of asking for the prices before putting in your order.

  11. friedgold says:

    @GreatCaesarsGhost:
    yeah, that employee discount was nice. hotdogs and pretzels for a dollar and as much popcorn or soda as you can stomach. i’d take home trashbags of leftover popcorn when i worked the closing shift.

    the only reason i won’t eat the pretzels anymore involved an incident in which a fellow coworker mistook a can of graffiti remover for the vegetable oil spray, and served several trays of the poisoned pretzels before we realized what happened…

  12. xwildebeestx says:

    Since I bought the overpriced tickets, my cousin agreed to buy the overpriced snacks…

    If your nose is that far out of joint about the price of movie tickets and concessions you can always NOT GO. The MPAA isn’t holding guns to our heads to make us go see movies (yet).

  13. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I can’t imagine that they’d want their screens off on purpose because you only end up with everyone asking how much everything costs. Every transaction takes longer because everyone has to wait until they’re at the counter to decide what they want. If they just wanted to raise prices it would be easier to just show the new prices on the TVs.

    If it was as busy there as it was at the theater I went to when I saw the movie they definitely don’t want things taking even longer.

  14. Nytmare says:

    @y2julio: Great plan, why bother having a menu board at all.

  15. Dobernala says:

    @friedgold: What was the aftermath of that? Anyone go to the hospital afterwards?

  16. Nytmare says:

    Seems like they could have switched the plugs temporarily to turn off the dancing monkey and turn on the menu prices.

  17. Red_Eye says:

    Likely they were getting plasma burn in on the prices ;) Didn’t want you ordering ghosted pricing.

  18. Youthier says:

    I’m pretty sure this was a glitch. Most people don’t purchase things without knowing the cost. I doubt that AMC is going to have it’s employees stand there and recite prices to every single customer.

  19. jtheletter says:

    @xwildebeestx: What a wonderful suggestion, thank you! I’ll remember that the next time anything is priced too high and has no alternatives.

    And yes, seeing a movie on a theater screen with good audio is NOT the same as watching it in your house, unless you have spent many thousands on a home theater setup. And I say this as someone with a 51″ TV with 5 speaker surround.

    Maybe if modern theaters spent less money making their foyers into Disney-like uber-neoned spectacles they wouldn’t have as much overhead and could charge prices that weren’t as exorbitant. But I guess heating/cooling a 500,000 cubic ft foyer where people just buy tickets makes good business sense to someone.

  20. friedgold says:

    @Dobernala: no, we just had a few people come back to the concession stand complaining that their pretzel bites tasted weird. thankfully, no one was stupid enough to eat more than one or two of them. we gave them new, unsullied, ones along with some other kind of freebie and sent them on their way. dumped all the bad pretzels, employee got a slap on the wrist, and nobody gets hurt (i hope).

  21. friedgold says:

    i would also like to point out, to those complaining about high prices at movie theatres, that the actual theatre doesn’t receive any of the profits from movie tickets. nearly every dollar they earn from selling tickets goes back to the studio. ticket prices are more a result of how affluent the area the theatre is located in, and how much studios are charging the theatre to screen their movies.

    the only place theatres make any money is through concession, and that is why they push it so hard and raise their prices so high. personally, i never buy the overpriced concessions, but there really isnt anything like the smell of fresh popped popcorn.

  22. RabbitDinner says:

    I only get snacks if I go early. $10 for a popcorn and a drink? I go to AMCinema sometimes, that is, half price before noon, but I guess most enjoy the Saturday/Sunday matinee/night movie over the morning showing

  23. RabbitDinner says:

    @RabbitDinner: Then again, I prefer empty theatres.

  24. ptkdude says:

    If you have to ask how much the popcorn is, you can’t afford it.

  25. ekthesy says:

    The OP should count himself lucky he does not attend ballgames at Yankee Stadium, where “food” prices are posted, but are frequently incorrect.

  26. stupidjerk says:

    @illtron: it’s a consumer issue when it reaks of shenanigans to pilfer your hard earned dollar

  27. Nancy Sin says:

    Im high school I used to know a girl who worked at a movie theatre. One day, after work, someone asked how her night was, and she said, not bad, I made $XX in tips…

    I proceeded to ask her how she got tips at a movie concession stand. Apparently she would inflate the drink/popcorn prices and pocket the difference.

  28. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @friedgold: I’m kinda horrified y’all didn’t tell anyone the pretzel’s had gotten something on them.

    @xwildebeestx: I don’t think pointing out that the prices are high means that they’re that upset about it. Besides, people are already seeing fewer movies due to the cost.

  29. superlayne says:

    At our theater there aren’t even prices for the value meals posted on the perfectly operational old tyme menus.

  30. UnicornMaster says:

    @superlayne: Regal has “Combos” but they’re not actually money saving, they’re just time saving. It’s the same exact price as the 2 things purchased separately. And no price, of course.

  31. mike says:

    I really hate the pricing at the movie theatre. I know that it’s there so the theatre can make money. But still…

    The prices are so high that they are practicly ASKING people to bring their own snacks. The prices are high enough that it will out weigh the cost of people sneaking in their snacks.

  32. JN2 says:

    Now I’ll just bit-torrent the popcorn and non-colored Slurpees to go with my bit-torrent movies.

    I’m still waiting for the “Media Tax” bill to hit congress. Then the MPAA and RIAA can be compensated by the taxpayers for all the crappy entertainment we are (not watching), stealing.

  33. rellog says:

    @illtron: Did you have to PAY to use the urinal? This may have been (probably not) an attempt to hide a price increase on concessions. Either way, it makes an informed decision as a consumer rather difficult.

  34. macinjosh says:

    @ekthesy: Boy I tell ya. They oughta tear that place down.

  35. MikeB says:

    Not sure if this is regional or not, but the AMC theaters in the Charlotte area are not charging $5 per ticket at Monday thru Thursday for any showtime.
    [www.charlotte.com]
    Went to see Wall-E on a Monday @ 7:30 and 4 tickets were $20.

  36. xwildebeestx says:

    @jtheletter: Eh, as my mother would say, “there are greater injustices in this world”.

  37. AdvocatesDevil says:

    @xwildebeestx: Wow, that’s one way to blame the OP! Bravo!

  38. theblackdog says:

    @friedgold: Why the hell was the graffiti remover close enough to the food prep area that a co-worker could grab the wrong can?

  39. Youthier says:

    @linus: Agreed! I don’t think I’ve bought candy from the counter in 15 years. I will get a drink and maybe popcorn from time to time but I always sneak in candy. And I’ve never seen anyone get caught sneaking anything normal in… only truly ridiculous things like a cake.

    I can get the “movie-theater” boxes from Walgreens for $1 to $1.25. If the theater actually charged, say $1.50 or $1.75, it may be worth it but I’d rather make a pit stop or go without.

  40. xwildebeestx says:

    @AdvocatesDevil: I’m not blaming anybody. I thought the whole point of “voting with your dollars” is that if you didn’t like something, you didn’t purchase it. You’ll never hear me complain about Wal-Mart or Starbucks or Comcast or BofA because I CHOOSE not to do business with them. Simple as that.

  41. jtheletter says:

    @xwildebeestx: “Eh, as my mother would say, “there are greater injustices in this world”.”

    Awesome rebuttal! Wow, moral relativism at it’s finest. Just because there’s still murder and disease and war, every other problem is clearly just not worth mentioning or solving. Ever been in a car accident, overcharged, shortchanged or ripped-off? Did you just shrug your shoulders and let it go because, hey, there’s genocide in Darfur? I’m betting you didn’t. Come back when you have a presentable rebuttal. For that matter why are you even reading this blog when you should be out saving lives? Clearly that’s more important.

  42. DePaulBlueDemon says:

    Hahaha, speaking of sneaking food into the theater… There’s a Chipotle right outside my favorite Loews and I always manage to sneak a burrito into the show… Works best with less crowded showings. ;)

  43. SigmundTheSeaMonster says:

    $10 for a small Popcorn and a small coke. $10!!!
    And the small coke was atleast 22oz!

    No butter. Please. Thank you.

  44. friedgold says:

    @theblackdog: we kept all the supplies in a back closet, and the cans looked remarkably similar, so he probably just grabbed the wrong one when getting a new can out of the back.

    yeah, we probably shouldn’t be storing food supplies with cleaning supplies, but honestly, that would be the least of our troubles considering everything else that was going on at the theatre.

  45. Toffeecake says:

    When I worked at a Regal theater, our policy was no outside food or drink, but that’s because we were right next to a mall food court. People would try to walk in with Chinese food or those huge variety bags of candy from the candy store. Basically, if you could stuff it in your purse or pocket, we didn’t care if you brought it in. Also, we hated cleaning up after outside food messes. People would bring in sunflower seeds and spit them all over the floor.

  46. audiochick says:

    @friedgold: as an FYI, amc’s policy is to allow outside food or drink, as long as it isnt alchoholic, smelly, or in glass bottles. feel free to bring in your own microwave popcorn and snacks, and you don’t have to dump out that drink before you come in.

    I love that! I always hit up Jamba Juice before hitting my AMC. And I have done the microwave popcorn, too!

  47. Pop Socket says:

    My AMC does not have prices on the combos either. Makes me wonder what they are trying to hide. And weekday ticket discounts, especially for older shows, sounds like a great idea.

  48. spryte says:

    @Youthier: A cake? Like, an entire bakery cake? That’s weird but totally hilarious.

    @friedgold: Thanks for that info! I’m going to an AMC theatre tonight and am glad to know this beforehand (haven’t been to a movie in quite a long time, but it’s X-FILES ffs, yes I’m a nerd). I’ll fork over money for the popcorn because microwave popcorn just isn’t the same to me, but I’m definitely bringing my own drink.

  49. theblackdog says:

    @friedgold: Fair enough, I’m just surprised the health department didn’t get on the theater’s case about it.

  50. snoop-blog says:

    where I live we still have $1 movie theatres.

  51. Youthier says:

    @spryte: To be specific, it was one of those chocolate Bill Knapp’s cakes. And yes, it was whole. The woman said, “But it’s my son’s birthday!” The management said no but they did hold it in the back until after her movie.

  52. varro says:

    @biikman: Mr. Pibb and Red Vines? Crazy delicious!

  53. Southern says:

    Just out of curiousity, how long has it been AMC’s policy to search everyone (with a “wand” style metal detector) and confiscate everone’s cell phone before they’re allowed in to see a movie?

    A friend of mine went to an AMC theater in Houston last night to see “Step Brothers”, and they ran the metal detector over everyone entering the theater and confiscated every cell phone (putting them in individual plastic bags and giving everyone a “claim ticket” so they could pick up their phone on the way out).

    I haven’t been to an AMC in years, and if this is some new policy they have I’ll make it a point to NEVER go. I hate people talking/texting on their cell phones in the theater as much as the next guy, but a movie theater having the right to confiscate my property in order to watch a movie? No way.

    Anyway, just curious how long this has been going on. There’s a couple of stories like it on Digg from late 2007 too.

  54. RockStarr says:

    @Southern: Your friend saw a special pre-screening. The production company of the film he saw paid AMC to rent out their theater for the screening. Your friend agreed to the no cell phones and search when he agreed to the pre-screening. Nothing to do with AMC.

  55. capitalass says:

    I’m a little surprised that noone has mentioned the selection of the concessions. If I go to the theater, sit for a couple of hours, eat, well anything that the theater offers, and drink nearly a liter of soda. I generally don’t feel that well. It’s not just a ripoff, but hardly worth it at any price.

  56. fever says:

    Buying snacks in a movie theater is a poor choice. Saying that the tickets to see “The Dark Knight” were overpriced is just stupid.

  57. balilanai says:

    Wait till it comes on DVD. Its still the same movie.

  58. baristabrawl says:

    I’m in Indianapolis and our Matinees are $7.

  59. kJeff says:

    Is this The Consumerist or The Cheapskateist?
    If you can afford to go to the movies then you can afford to not complain about the snack prices.

    I go to the Showcase Cinema in Revere, MA. The evening tickets are $10 ($8 for matinee). I usually pay about $15 for the “2 soda, large popcorn” combo. If you’re counting your pennies enough to need to smuggle your own food in, then you may want to re-examine the expense of the tickets.

    I’m going to the theater for a night out, not a stealth mission to smuggle snacks in my pockets.