- a blog about food and value

Overpriced Food in Cinemas

"Let's all go the lobby, to get ourselves fleeced"

"Let's all go the lobby, let's all go to the lobby, let's all go to the lobby, to let ourselves be fleeced"

Ok, maybe laughing in his face and ignoring him wasn’t very nice. But when a staff member in Movies at Dundrum Cinema kicked up a fuss because I was bringing in a bag of popcorn from – ooh, whisper it – the outside, I honestly thought he was joking.

I arrived at the counter with some outside tap water in my own container, which I was told I should not bring inside. And I shouldn’t really be bringing the outside popcorn inside either, he told me. In fairness, he was very polite, but only because he seemed to implicitly acknowledge the absurdity of the situation.

I was at the counter because I’m an absolute sucker for the shiny pick and mix displays in cinemas. They stung me over €5 for a tiny bag of sweets that consisted largely of flogs (if you want to save money on pick and mix, buy flogs, as they’re bulky but weigh very little – just not in Dundrum). I skulked into the screen  with my bag of Manhattan popcorn shoved under my coat, feeling a bit like a toddler hiding a bun I stole from my mammy. Seriously: is this a cinema? Or a jail?

Some cinemas are offering deals; popcorn, drink, and bag of sweets for a set price, but even these are usually way pricier than you’d get in a shop. It’s still relatively expensive to go to the cinema in Ireland, especially if they’re going to monitor our nibbles and demand that we buy their limited selection of extortionately priced food.

I feel totally justified taking in outside food to any cinema. A few snacks is part and parcel of the cinema experience for me and many others, and I’m not willing to be fleeced by their unjustified prices, so it’s either that or not go.

What do you think of the price of food in cinemas? Noticed any good deals? And do cinemas have every right to prohibit outside food?


  1. We usually frequent the Vue cinema in Liffey Valley and I’ve stopped buying anything altogether due to the ridiculous prices. My partner can’t resist the pic ‘n mix either but I think it’s a complete rip off so I’m going to buy him bags of Haribo from Aldi in future. Unless they’re going to do a bag search on customers then I think they’ll have a hard time prohibiting outside food.

  2. Pick and mix are ridiculously overpriced – i don’t think they do floggs in my local cinema 🙂 Meal deals rarely include water and I’m lately starting to realise that I only like the one in twenty pieces of popcorn that have salt on them so either I bring in my own salt shaker from now on or I stop buying the stuff!

  3. Movies at Swords seem much more relaxed – I had my bag of pastries & coffee and they didn’t bat an eyelid.

    Then again, maybe they only get touchy when it involves products that they sell?

  4. After travels abroad I looked at setting up a small cafe/cinema and was looking at the costs. I worked out that charging people for cinema tickets rarely makes money. The distributor makes about 95% of the first week, 90% 2nd week and so on. It’s only if a film goes on longer than a month that a cinema starts to make any proper money.
    Hence the reason for the overpriced food/drinks. This is the only thing the cinema is generally making money off. Yes I agree it’s over-priced but they are trying to make money somehow. And since a lot of people don’t buy things from the shop it’s makes it more expensive for the few that do.


  5. I think Ronan is spot on here – I’ve always heard that cinemas make their money from the concession stands rather than the films. I used to work in a video shop years ago, and video shops had to pay really high charges for copies of new releases – a video had to be rented over 10 times before it made a profit. I’m sure it’s still the same for dvds now. Regardless of the format of the movie, all the money goes to the distributor, so the extras are key. I suppose the issue is just the high cost here – when it already costs €20 just to get tickets for two, it can be hard to justify shelling out another €12 on snacks.

  6. It is totally unreasonable to bring in outside food and drink. Would you do it in a restaurant using the same argument? I cant understand people eating in cinemas in the first place; its a place to watch films, not a take away!

  7. Eh, your still paying up to €10.50 to go and see a film, that’s over €20 if there are two of you, so whether its going to the cinema or the distributor, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still coming out of your pocket. When they start to try and charge you €16 on top of your tickets for 2 cokes and two popcorns, I wouldn’t blame anyone for bringing their own- recession or not

  8. I just rarely eat at the cinema now and I refuse to pay 3 euros for a bottle of water that costs €1.20 in the shop down the street. I understand when its specific items like popcorn but when its something that is sold elsewhere for half the price it really annoys me I have to say.

  9. liffey valley vue, has the boots meal deal beside it, tasty sandwiches, fruit juices, crisps chocolate etc for 3.99 much nicer than dodgy nachos and hot dogs of rubber !

  10. We often go to the Sunday morning showings in Cineworld on Parnell Street with takeaway coffees in hand, and they’ve never said a word.

    I completely agree with the fact that cinemas can charge what they like for their food, but I will get upset if they start to stop people with food from outside.

  11. I absolutely refuse to buy food in cinemas – the mark up is truly scandalous, and if they charged regular prices they would make far more money as no one would bother stocking up before they go in!
    I enjoy food while i watch a movie, it’s part of the experience for me.

  12. I keep coming back to this but it probably comes down to the running costs again and again…..

  13. I never buy cinema food – I’m usually ok to watch a film on the big screen without snacks, but if I do feel like something I’ll generally get it beforehand. Haven’t had any problems so far, although that said I’m not especially blatant about it… apart from once when I lived in Belfast and walked into the cinema while starting to eat a huge sandwich (having not had a chance to eat anything that day). They were very sound about it!

  14. I never buy anything from cinema shops as prices are outrageous, most times I do bring something with me. The exception is Starbucks coffee, sold inside cinema premises anyway. I always try not to be so obvious about it though, as I feel they would have the right to prevent me from doing so. You don’t take food from one restaurant to another…

    I do agree that if they charged regular prices they would make far more money.

    The rip off prices work a treat with children who tend to stock up on everything available leaving a huge bill to parents. Having said that, my local UCI has never said a word even when I use to bring 10 kids for birthday parties and had supermarket bags full of stuff for the little angels (the famous party-bags) 🙂

  15. I went to the lighthouse cinema in Smithfield last week and because they have a nice cafe inside we sat down and had coffee before going into see the film. You’re able to purchase the coffee to take into the auditorium too which is a rare treat. I did buy some granola bars in the Spar shop beforehand because I wasn’t prepared to pay a premium for a snack inside.

  16. I have to say Im stunned. You don’t bring sandwiches to restaurants do you?

  17. I don’t really think it’s the same thing Claire – you go to restaurants to eat food that has been prepared and cooked there. There’s no other reason for being in a restaurant. You go to the cinema to watch films, many people don’t even bother with the snacks. And often the snacks are identical to what you can buy around the corner in a newsagent for a quarter of the price.

  18. I bring food with me for the kids because apart from the price, all you get in the cinema is junk. I usually pop into M&S beforehand and buy them a sandwich, sushi or carrot sticks. It’s all part of the treat of going to the cinema. Chances are they’ll get an icecream too if they’re lucky and I would buy that in the cinema.

  19. I have to say I wouldn’t like to sit next to someone eating a sandwich in the cinema. I think that’s a bit unnecessary and gross. Popcorn, on the other hand, is a MUST! It’s synonymous with the whole movie experience and the prices in cinemas are horrific. I find it hard to imagine a cineplex like UGC, which is always jammers, is not making money off ticket sales no matter how much distributers get.

  20. At Liffey Valley, running a bit late, but starving, I went to the pizza place first. We carried two pizzas inside in takeaway boxes. No one batted an eye. Felt decadent munching fresh pizza while watching the trailers and credits. Mmm…

  21. Sarah, I think it is unneccessary and gross, not to mention offensive to leave a mess behind you in the cinema, which many people do with their popcorn! Keep yours eyes on the screen and you wont have to worry about my sandwich!

  22. I honestly cant believe what Im reading here. No wonder I only go to the cinema off peak and to independent establishments. You are not at home! It is unacceptable to expect the staff to clean up your pizza boxes and coffee cups not to mention having to endure the smell of greasy pizza during the movie. Pizza and coffee are steps too far.

  23. One of the things I always found weird about cinemas is the lack of bins, especially when so many people are eating, Evelyn. I didn’t mean to apply that sandwich eater leave any more mess behind than popcorn eaters, I just wouldn’t like to sit in close proximity to a stranger eating a sandwich in a cinema, or bus or anywhere. Cinema seats are literally six inches apart. Unlike popcorn, some sandwiches tend to pong.

  24. apply = imply in Sarahland obvs.

  25. I agree that people throwing their rubbish on the floor of the cinema is revolting. Where did we ever get the idea that it’s ok to do that? There are usually bins just outside the doors. It’s like the way smokers think it’s ok to throw their mucky fag ends everywhere.

  26. but you’re not eating in the newsagents or using their toilets or have staff clear up after you using very expensive cleaning products which has to be collected by a refuse collector. The newsagents doesn’t have to pay for insurance for you to sit on their premises. I know nothing about the cinema busness but like every other business they HAVE to make money to cover all these costs so obviously they can’t charge the same as the shop around the corner…. I get this all the time “but I can make that at home for half the price”!!!

  27. Ireland has rip off prices compared to everwhere else, in oz we went to the cinema every tues nite (tight ass tues as its known) for $5 and then got a movie deal of a drink, popcorn and sweets for a futher $5!im sure they have to pay the same costs for new films as in ireland so how irish cinemas can charge those prices is beyond me! even goin to the cinema and payin ful price was still about half the price of the cinema here! its a pity cinemas here dont have one night in the week where its cheap…i for one hate spending €10.50 on a ticket and the same again for drinks and popcorn!

  28. Never have this problem at Movies @ Swords. Often go there with my kids and we sometimes buy pick and mix at another shop downstairs for half the price – I usually go to dunnes or somewhere for popcorn and cartons of juice or bring some from home – I usually put them all in a supermarket bag. And I always bring a large coffee with me cos I hate soft drinks. No-one has ever said a thing to me.

  29. I’m with Claire on most of what she says. We are a nation of overeaters. When watching a film I reckon if it is entertaining enough there should be NO need to stuff our faces with food that usually we don’t even notice the taste of. It’s a habit. The smells of food in the restricted area of a cinema are gross, and I include popcorn in that rant!

    I’m lucky in that I can go to morning shows in Parnell St. where it is a good experience as often there are only a few people there, no disturbing rustlings and slurpings…bliss.

  30. I went to reel cinema to see the hangover and our local cinema is above an asda, so i went there for cheap snacks n drinks they refused entry of me with my food and said i can store it in an office utter horses**t i can understand them refusing open food e.g. pizza! but not sweets n popcorn

  31. Only just saw these comments. Well, other Claire. If I am dining alone in a restaurant and I would like to read a book/newspaper/magazine to pass the time should I be prohibited from bringing my own with me?

    Should restaurants start charging single customers for reading material at eight or nine times the price it would cost in an ordinary shop?

    How about if I travel on a train, am I allowed to bring my own iPod or should I be forced to rent one from IE at a hugely inflated rental price?

    One pays into the cinema to see a film, it is neither a restaurant nor a cafe. If the cinema choose to provide an offering of food and drink then good for them.

    Cinema goers should absolutely not be obliged to purchase the limited, overpriced, unhealthy and fattening food that is on offer at the cinema.

    I for one, always take my rubbish with me when I leave the cinema, I never see anyone else doing it. I don’t consider the cinema staff cleaners, perhaps that is in their job description though and I will toss my crap on the groud just like everone else from now on.

  32. I agree with Therealchair.It is ridiculous that people are expected to pay through the nose for bad food, when they can bring their own for a fraction of the cost.
    I also think Irish people really need a lesson in cleaning up after themselves…is it such a challenge to put your rubbish in the bin when your finished?you wouldn’t litter your own sitting room with sweet wrappers, so why should the cinema be any different?

  33. Read all the posts looking for someone to answer all the people who are saying would we take food to a restaurant. Well it’s a bad analogy and glad that Therealchair says so.

    I pay for a film and rent the seat to see the film. I have watched a DVD in a restauraunt on my wee portable and they never tried to charge me for it, so once again the analogy falls on its a**e.

    Cinemas should’t be allowed to interfere with your person whether sweets and stuff are in bags or not.

    As for the those posts that say that they have to charge high prices because people bring their own stuff with them, this is a catch 22, if they lowered their prices, even charging a wee bit more than the local shop.

    The hastle factor of having to stop at the shops before going to the cinema will make most people just accept the slight hike in price and buy stuff at the cinema, try dragging kids around the supermarket before going to cinema (shudders).

    Basic supply and demand says if you price it right people will buy. So they will make the same amountof money if not slightly increased revenue

  34. Well I always felt that the price of food in cinemas was overpriced.