• Movie theatre chains only keep around 50% of the revenue from ticket sales each year.
  • But theatres keep over 80% of concessions revenue, so most theatres are designed to get you to spend money on food.
  • And it works. AMC reports that more than 71% of attendees spend money on concessions.
  • For more stories, go to Business Insider SA. 


Between ticket prices and concessions, movie theatres are expensive. But while movie theatre chains only keep around 50% of the revenue from ticket sales each year, they can keep over 80% of concessions revenue as profit. So, most theatres are designed to get you to spend money on food. And it works, US based AMC Theatres reports that more than 71% of attendees spend money on concessions.

You might have heard that movie-ticket prices keep climbing, averaging over R130 in the United States, and almost twice that in big cities. But, the bulk of that ticket price goes back to the distributor.

But it doesn't really matter how much your ticket costs, because if you're going to a movie theatre, chances are you're buying some food.

Most movie theatres are designed so you must walk past the concession counter. The actual movies are tucked away, down long, dark hallways.

As soon as you get inside the theatre, the food is bright, colourful, and, thanks to the glass cases, visible at every angle. You can see popcorn popping, stacks of candy, and giant soda machines.

And because no outside food or drink is allowed, if you want to eat something during your two-hour movie, you must get it at the theatre.

In 2018, 62% of AMC's total revenue came from admissions. Thirty-one percent was from concessions. But AMC was able to keep almost 84% of that concession revenue as profit, compared to just under 50% that they were able to keep from admissions. Basically, if you spend $1 on food, AMC keeps $0.84. But if you spend $1 on a ticket, it keeps only $0.50.

Whether it’s a popcorn with soda, and an added box of large Astros or Whispers theatres will do whatever they can to get you to spend more money on food.

They use what is called price discrimination offers like buy one, get one free special; or special upgrades to a large coke and popcorn for a mere R10.

For the movie theatres the margins might not be as good, but their aim is getting more of your money, which is why they will offer the combos.

Unless you're sharing in a big group, you'll probably be stuck with more food than you can eat.

The tricks don't stop at the lobby.

Theatres list movie start times that are 15 to 20 minutes earlier than when the movie starts.

This helps the theatre in two ways. It allows them to show more commercials before the trailers, which is another source of revenue, and it keeps moviegoers sitting and waiting for longer.

Theatres are also experts at getting you back to see another movie.

Reward points and special-access programs get consumers to go to the movies more often. Gaining points for each dollar you spend is a great motivator to buy a little more than you normally would.

It’s important to remember because so much of the ticket price is going to the distributor, theatres have to find alternative sources of revenue, which means snacks and drinks.

Going to the movies is supposed to be fun. But you have to make sure the movie you're seeing and the food you're eating is what you actually want, not just something that has been constantly advertised to you.

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