How to Snack at the Movies

Fernanda Amis
From sneaking food into your backpack to hiding it in your pockets, there are a multitude of ways to bring your own food into the movie theater.

When did going to the movies become a $30 affair? Movie ticket prices throughout the city vary from $10 to $22, and across the board, the combination of the smallest bag of popcorn and the most pitifully sized soda costs $11, excluding sugary incidentals. So how can students on a budget take part without going hungry?

Gallatin junior Lawren Britt has devised a concise and clever mechanism for sneaking her own food into the movie theater.

“If I’m able to I will bring my backpack and just put a black jacket on top of it — the food —  and make it look flat,” Britt said. “They just think it’s a jacket inside.”

While some resort to elaborate hiding techniques, others are less furtive about their contraband. Steinhardt sophomore Julia Bricnet opts for the big-pocket-route.

“I’ve snuck loads in: drinks, full meals,” Bricnet said. “Pockets. They won’t pat you down. Don’t bring too big of a bag. ”

Although it is always best to assume the worst, New York City movie theaters do not, in fact, check your bag most of the time. At the Angelika Film Center, IFC Center, Village East Cinema and AMC Village 7, you may saunter in, and your side bag will go unnoticed (though a bulging backpack may rouse suspicion). The Regal Union Square 14 Movie Theatre will check your bags, but doesn’t seem to mind if you bring your own food — especially if you explain exactly what you have with a little humor.

When asked to reveal what was inside my plastic bag, after making a joke about carrying only pure necessities, I opened it to reveal a water bottle, two packs of cigarettes and a half-eaten banana — at which the staff laughed and let me through. Had I been carrying more food, however, I would’ve tried the Britt or Bricnet techniques, just in case.

Not buying food at the movie theater is not only a matter of money —  it is a matter of morality. Rhode Island School of Design sophomore Isabel Rower grew up in New York City and has relished the handsome array of theaters, but never once has she bought food at the movies.

“Even if you do buy a snack at a movie theater, there’s some kind of judgement from the people who work there because everyone knows that those snacks are so horrifically overpriced,” Rower said. “If they were just people going to the movies they probably wouldn’t pay for it because who would pay for that? So then they like look down on you, even if you’re giving money to the theater. But then they get so mad at you when you sneak things in because it’s like they have to.”

Rower instead likes to buy her snacks at neighboring establishments that boast a larger and cheaper selection of goods. When she goes to Metrograph, an independent cinema on the Lower East Side, she makes a point of popping by nearby Economy Candy to get her fix. Sometimes she’ll grab dollar pizza and slide it into a Ziploc or stuff a can of soda or small coffee in her pants and cradle it with her hand through her pocket.

Not everyone in the NYU community abides by these rules however. To Tisch professor Sheldon Woodbury, traditional movie theater snacks are a worthy indulgence.

“Long ago, before they checked bags, I’d sometimes bring stuff in,” Woodbury said. “Now that I have a son, I buy him what he wants, which of course is popcorn and candy, and the prices are absurd. But there’s nothing like seeing a great movie and munching on popcorn.”

So, if you bring your own carefully concealed snacks to the movies — and grab your ticket from NYU Skirball or sign up for MoviePass which allows you to see one free movie a day using its special card in exchange for $9.95 a month) — the $30 drops to $10 or even $0. Now that’s a steal.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 27 print edition. Email Fernanda Amis at [email protected]

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