Can I Bring My Own Popcorn and Drink to the Cinema?

homemade popcorn at the cinema

We all know that going to the cinema is not cheap. Not to mention the price of the giant soft drinks, hot dogs, slush and the essential popcorn, watching a movie is prohibitive these days.

For families, the cost is even higher. It doesn’t matter that there are discounts for families because the price of tickets is still very high. But this price will not be as high as it is the popcorn and drinks.

On the other hand, prices vary considerably depending on the cinema and its location. As a guideline, I show you a table comparing the costs of tickets in Cineworld Cardiff (One of the cheapest) vs Cineworld London Leicester (One of the most expensive). This table can be applied to all countries and brands. Before going to the cinema, look for the price of their web site.

CINEWORLD STANDARD CARDIFF STANDARD LONDON LEICESTER IMAX WITH LASER SUPERSCREEN CARDIFF SUPERSCREEN LONDON LEICESTER 4DX CARDIFF 4DX LONDON LEICESTER
Adult £4.50 £15.50 £23.00 £5.50 £20.00 £9.20 £23.00
Child (Aged 14 and under) £4.50 £13.50 £17.00 £5.50 £15.50 £9.20 £17.00
Student £2.90 £13.50 £17.00 £5.50 £15.50 £7.60 £17.00
Senior £4.50 £13.50 £17.00 £5.50 £15.50 £9.20 £17.00
Family (Max 3 children, Max 4 tickets for the same film) £18.00 £54.00 £68.00 £22.00 £62.00 £36.80 £68.00
3D All tickets +£1.00 Glasses £1.00 Adults +£2.20 All others +£1.60 Glasses £1.00 All tickets +£2.00 Includes use of 3D glasses All tickets +£1.00 Glasses £1.00 All tickets +£1.50 Glasses £1.00 All tickets +£1.00 Glasses £1.00 All tickets +£1.50 Glasses £1.00 All Family tickets +£6.00

You may have had to sneak food into the cinema or fill your popcorn bucket with the ones you brought from home hidden in your backpack. Nowadays, many people keep sweets and candies in unsuspected places before entering the screen.

Depending on the dictates of your local auditorium, all those times you secretly brought food to the cinema may have been unnecessary. There is a general belief that homemade popcorn and drinks that you haven’t bought on the cinema premises are not allowed. In this post I’m going to give you a pleasant surprise, so keep reading.

How much does popcorn cost at the Cinema?

The sale of food and drinks is an excellent source of income for the cinema. That’s why cinemas are generally not very happy with you bringing your popcorn and soft drinks from home.

For the cheapest packs of popcorn and soft drink, we won’t get much change when we pay with a 5 pounds note (or dollars for US). And the margin that a movie theatre beats popcorn is officially 1275%.

Here is a table with the prices of Cineworld snacks and drinks. These prices may vary depending on the cinema and location.

Menu Item Price Menu Item Price
Popcorn Cold Drinks
Small Popcorn £4.30 Small Soft Drink £3.20
Regular Popcorn £4.95 Regular Soft Drink £3.65
Large Popcorn £5.45 Large Soft Drink £4.10
Toffee Popcorn (200g) £3.95 Water (750ml) £2.50
Gourmet Popcorn £3.95 Water (500ml) £1.50
Hot Food Bottled Soft Drink £2.60
Regular Hot Dog £4.95 Fruit Shoot (200ml) £1.60
Large Hot Dog £5.65 Hot Drinks
Regular Nachos £4.95 Regular Mocha £2.40
Large Nachos £5.65 Large Mocha £2.90
+Extra Drip or Jalapenos £0.80 Regular Tea £2.10
Sweets Large Tea £2.40
Confectionery £3.35 Regular Hot Chocolate £2.30
Ice cream tubs £2.99 Large Hot Chocolate £2.80
Magnum £2.25 Regular Espresso £2.00
Misc. ice creams £1.50 Regular Cappuccino £2.30
Cakes and slices £1.80 Large Cappuccino £2.80

How much does it cost to go to the cinema, buying snacks and drinks?

We will take the standard ticket and the regular size for drinks and popcorn in the 3 cases I show you below:

Cineworld – Cardiff

  • 1 adult = (standard ticket) 4.50£ + (Standard popcorn) 4.95£ + (standard soft drink) 3.65£ = 13.10£
  • 2 Adults = (standard ticket) 9.00£ + (Standard popcorn) 9.90£ + (standard soft drink) 7.30£ = 26.20£
  • 1 standard family (4 people) = (standard ticket) £18.00 + (4 Standard popcorn) £19.80 + (4 standard soft drink) £14.60 = £52.40

Cineworld – London Leicester

  • 1 adult = (standard ticket) 15.50£ + (Standard popcorn) 4.95£ + (standard soft drink) 3.65£ = 24.10£
  • 2 Adults = (standard ticket) 31.00£ + (Standard popcorn) 9.90£ + (standard soft drink) 7.30£ = 48.20£
  • 1 standard family (4 people) = (standard ticket) 54.00£ + (4 Standard popcorn) 19.80£ + (4 standard soft drink) 14.60£ = 88.40£

You can always get offers and packs for snacks, where you’ll save a little, but anyway popcorn plus drinks are a bigger payout than the cinema ticket itself. This way, thinking about going to the cinema with your homemade popcorn is no-nonsense.

Is it illegal to enter the cinema with your homemade popcorn and soft drinks?

It’s clear that with the benefits that cinema gets from very light snacks, they’re not going to get to see you with your food and drink. However, they will turn a blind eye when they realize that there are people who bring their popcorn from home.

We will continue to use Cineworld as an example of our arguments. The most popular chain of cinemas in the UK, their policies regarding introducing your popcorn and soft drinks is much more relaxed than it might seem.

But beware of bringing hot food or alcohol, as in that case you will be banned from the cinema. However, there are no official restrictions on bringing cold food to a Cineworld cinema.

On their website, this chain of cinemas talks about having a strict policy not to consume hot food or alcohol. They specify that they reserve the right to deny access to the cinema to those users who bring that type of hot food and alcoholic drinks from the street. Besides, there are signs on the premises indicating this.

In the rest of the cinemas in the world, the rules will be similar, because prohibiting the entrance of a customer who brings his popcorn and drink can harm their branding more than losing that extra income for snacks.

Anyway, I recommend that before taking your popcorn to the cinema, you enter the web portal of cinema and consult the policies to avoid displeasure at the door.

Although I’m sure that if you get into trouble because you tried to get inside with your homemade popcorns, if you take a picture of the scene and suggest to the manager the publication in social networks you probably won’t have any problems.

Why can’t I bring hot food or alcohol to the cinema?

There is an argument that cinema bosses can use to prevent you from entering cinemas with hot food, as this food could spill on the floor or the seats. In short, we could stain other customers’ clothes if we spill sauce or oil on the seats.

On the other hand, like other establishments, cinemas have a legal restriction on the alcohol they can serve (if they can). So, if customers bring alcoholic drink from the street, this could be a violation of the cinema license, and therefore, this would be a enough argument not to allow the entrance to the cinema.

Apart from the above, another argument concerning alcohol is that a drunk customer could cause interruptions during the screening of the film, causing discomfort in other users.

How much money do cinemas make on popcorn and soft drinks each year?

Cinemas make their popcorn, just like you do at home. But cinemas use much larger machines for vast amounts of corn.

There is not much information about what corn they buy or at what price they buy it because if this information were known and made public people could be alarmed by the enormous margins with which they work.

However, I have done that research, and I have bought each of the sizes of popcorn in several cinemas to weigh them at home and see the margin that the cinema has with this product.

If you use the lowest price of a bag of corn from any supermarket, the profit margin for Cineworld’s small cube is 1500%. I wasn’t wrong about the numbers; it’s 1500%!

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