Squirreling Gone Wild #36: Saving Money on Movie Theatre Popcorn

save money on movie theatre popcornSo, it’s been a while since the last installment of Squirreling Gone Wild, but I came across another example of borderline extreme behavior when it comes to saving money.  You might call it clever instead.  Let’s see what you think.

The scene was a local movie theatre.  As I’ve written about before, it can be expensive to go see movies, and there are plenty of ways to save money on movies that don’t include going to the theatre.  Though admittedly, I have a renewed interest in seeing movies, and find that my kids really love to see them.

Anyway, one aspect of going to see a movie that can be quite expensive is the cost of concessions.  A recent post from ABC news discussed why popcorn costs a lot at the movies, and it’s really a notion that’s quite common these days.  Get popcorn, or any other concessions at the movies, and you’ll pay quite a bit more than if you bought similar items outside.

Now, with other concessions you might be able to sneak a few things into the movies.  Candies come to mind.  Is this ethical? We discussed it in a post a few weeks ago on ethics and frugality, and sentiment seemed to be that it’s not a huge deal even if borderline.  Do you agree?

Well anyway, one would think that it wouldn’t be possible to game the system when it come to popcorn.  After all, it would be tough to bring a big bag of popcorn into the theatre, much less hot, buttered popcorn.  You might be able to bring in some healthier popcorn, but that’s another topic altogether.

What I saw at the theatre was a family that found a way to squeeze some savings out of their entertainment budget by figuring out a way around the high cost of movie popcorn.  Here is what I think they did, and it’s pretty simple:

  • Buy a large bucket of popcorn for $6.75, which comes with refills (the smaller sizes don’t).
  • Bring into the theatre some brown paper bags, which they hid in their jackets
  • When in the dark theatre, bust out the paper bags and transfer popcorn from the bucket to each of the 4 individual bags.
  • Keep going back for refills as they need more popcorn.

The net result is that for the price of one large popcorn, they could ultimately get the equivalent of 4 large popcorn servings!

One could always point out that if they just used that original bucket and passed it around and shared, they could have gotten the same deal.  However, that seems like it would be quite inconvenient at the movies to pass the popcorn around a group of people.  Getting your own bag that only you are touching seems to be a more convenient, pleasant experience, right?

When I saw that these people were doing, I smiled right away :)  After thinking about it more, I thought that it might have crossed the line.  It seemed analogous to getting one fountain drink at a restaurant, and then pouring drinks into separate cups for the whole family.  Perhaps just because it’s the movies, many turn a blind eye to this behavior.

My Questions for You

What do you think about this movie theatre popcorn workaround?

Do you think we tend to give frugal behavior at the movie theatres a free pass compared to similar actions in other settings?