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Movie Food
29 July 2002

On our way to see Goldmember, Rob and I stopped at Whole Foods to pick up a sandwich and a can of iced tea to share - $4.95 for the sandwich and $2.00 for the tea. The cashier cannily remarked, "Going to the movies?" She went on to tell us, "Last time I went they wanted to search my purse. Of course I didn't let them. I had a bag of little carrots in there. They bust you if you don't buy their food. It's the main way they make money, you know."

I like Whole Foods. It's a great subculture.

I thought about stuffing little carrots into tampon holders and some hummus in an old lotion bottle, but gave it up since the sandwich was already bought. I stuffed our veggie sandwich and the can of tea in the bottom of my purse and piled (packaged) tampons over them. I figured that would discourage a bag-searcher.

It seems to be true that the big film theatre chains make most of their revenue from snacks. According to an article from Eye:

"Both Lebo [Executive Director of the Motion Picture Theatre Association of Canada] and Fraser [Joanne Fraser, Vice-President of Corporate Affairs for Famous Players] acknowledge that theatres make most of their money from the snack bar. We asked for a breakdown of admissions vs. snack bar vs. other sources of revenue, but Fraser refused to comment."

The problem is not the revenue source but the fact that the snacks are nasty. One would think that with the growing criticism (and recent lawsuit) of fast food restaurants for contributing to the obesity of millions of Amercans would be enough to send the message, but apparently not. A big bag of buttered popcorn is worth about 1760 calories and 137 grams of fat. And if popcorn butter fumes are ruining factory workers' lungs, what does it do to movie theatre workers? To customers?

The first argument the movie chains will make against healthy food in theatres is that nobody wants it. So why is that guy searching my purse? The second argument is money. Myth suggests that healthy food costs more than junk food, so serving healthy food hurts the poor. Oh, behave. If a poor person is willing to spend $6.95 for popcorn and a Coke, I bet they can afford a bag of carrots, or even a veggie burrito (proudly served by some independent theatres in Santa Cruz). A pal in Market Research told me a few years ago that fast food companies used the same excuses. I bet they're re-thinking.

I love the movies. I go see movies almost indiscriminately. I don't want AMC or Century Theatres to disappear. But until they get some decent food in there, I'm packin'. Maybe if they find enough squashed avocados among the tampons in people's purses, the movies will get a clue.