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Man sues movie theater because snacks are too expensive

Robert Byron / FeaturePics

Who hasn't stood in front of a movie theater concession stand and been stunned by the prices of snacks and drinks? $5 for a bottled water? $8 for a bag of popcorn? $4 for a box of M&Ms? If regular moviegoers haven't smuggled in their own snacks, they've almost certainly thought about it.

Joshua Thompson of Livonia, Mich., actually did something about it. He filled a class action suit against his local AMC Theater protesting the snack overpricing, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Thompson wouldn't talk to the paper, but the Free Press reports that the man used to bring his own snacks and drinks to the theater until a sign was posted banning doing so.

The lawsuit also provides some blunt price comparison, saying Thompson paid $8 for a Coke and box of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts at the theater in December, three times what the items were being sold for at nearby stores.

The Free Press notes that the lawsuit will likely be thrown out, quoting legal experts who say that because movie theaters are regulated, they are exempt from Michigan's Consumer Protection Act.

The best line in the Free Press story? "A staffer at the National Association of Theatre Owners in Washington, D.C., angrily hung up the phone when asked about industry snack pricing practices."

And another great quote comes from this 2007 article from Boston, in which Ian M. Judge, director of operations for a theater chain,  is quoted as saying, "I worked for Loews for five years and I can tell you that I was told many times that we were not a theater but a restaurant that happens to show movies."

Of course, this is America, where a business is free to set its own prices, and consumers are free to pay them or to choose not to patronize the business. A 2009 Stanford research study says that high snack prices at theaters can actually be a good thing, because they keep ticket prices lower, as theater owners know they'll make it back from us at the concession counter. Although that 2009 study took place before the ubiquitous addition of 3-D to almost every film out there boosted those prices as well. No business like show business indeed.

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