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Do You Sneak Snacks Into The Movies?

Movie SnacksIt’s come to mind lately that there may be things I do to save money that might fall into a gray area. Now, I am in no way talking about stealing or anything remotely illegal, but if you are someone who makes it a point to follow all the rules, you might be disappointed with some of my habits. Maybe you do some of them as well. I guess my question is this: Is it OK to break the rules if they are silly ones meant to get you to spend more money?

Let’s Go To The Movies

We’ve been to the movies a few times this summer. For years, I’ve put snacks and sometimes drinks in my purse so that we don’t have to buy the rip off expensive ones there. We all know there are signs clearly stating that no outside food or drink is allowed. It’s not that they don’t want people spilling on the carpet. They sell overpriced things to a captive audience who can’t seem to go two hours without a salty or sweet snack. I’ve never given my snack sneakiness a second thought. I believed I was being frugal.

We went with a friend and her son last week. He was talking about getting food, and my daughter pipes up, rather loudly, about how Mommy has stuff in her purse. I quickly shushed her up and said we couldn’t talk about that. This got me to thinking that maybe I’m setting a bad example. If we can’t say it out loud, should we be doing it?

We’ve also pirated snacks into baseball games, amusement parks, and most recently, the bowling alley .It just seems crazy to spend more than the price of admission on food that would cost $1.50 to bring from home. Is this wrong or smart?

I’m not sure why it’s OK for an establishment to insist on consumers purchasing their products or none at all. Years ago, optometrists were allowed to insist that patients bought contacts from their office only if they wanted to fill a prescription. Then the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act was passed which basically said patients could take their prescription anywhere they chose if they paid their exam fees. Do we need to pass the Fairness to Movie Watcher’s Act so that I can bring my own snacks to the theater without feeling like a criminal?

I guess the best thing to do would be make sure we are full before going to the movies, or maybe we could compromise by buying popcorn but bringing a drink? I’ve explained to my daughter how the movie theater wants us to spend more money, and that’s why they don’t want us to bring snacks. I hope I don’t give her a complex. We just wanted to enjoy a movie during the heat of the day. Maybe I’m making too big of a deal out of nothing.

What’s your opinion on no outside food or drinks? Do you sneak snacks in to the movies?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/digitalart

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. Yep, I did this just a few days ago when I saw Superman. I figured worst case scenario they ask that I leave (which they have every right to do if I’m not following rules!) but over time I’ve saved so much money it’s hard not to do it.

    • Glad to know I have a partner in crime.

    • We have snuck snacks in since I was a kid. The prices are outrageous.

      But recently, we have a new excuse for doing it. Our family has so many food allergies, that no establishment can accommodate us. It’s an ADA issue for us now. Our family has allergies to gluten, soy, dairy, egg, corn, and nightshades (including spices made from nightshades).

  2. I did this all of the time in college. The movie theater was in the mall, so people would be coming into the movies with bags all of the time. We would come into a movie with a bag as well, except our bag was full of food and drinks and not clothes.

  3. Yes, absolutely. The only thing I will buy at the movies is one of those coke slushie things. Love those!

  4. When I was growing up, my parents snuck food in all the time to the movie theaters. My dad would make me bring my little denim purse if we were going to the movies because it could fit a couple of cans of soda. But these days, it doesn’t feel worth it. It’s rare that we go see a movie in the theater (once, maybe twice per year) so it’s not a big deal. Usually we go after dinner, so don’t really want snacks. Or if we do, we get a kids tray to share. Fewer calories and less money. =)

  5. I absolutely bring snacks to the movies. I don’t think there’s anything unethical about if you don’t lie about it. If the manager came over and told me to throw away my food or leave, then I’d have to choose one of the options, but unnecessary rules with vague consequences don’t matter too much to me.

  6. I totally think it’s OK to bring your own snacks into movies! Not only is it sooo much cheaper, you can bring what you want. I only wish I could sneak a bag of popcorn in. I like theater popcorn, but $12 for a medium-sized bag? No way. If the theaters want to encourage people to buy their snacks, they should lower their prices.

  7. Oh hell yeah! When I go to the movie with my girlfriends (and see a chick flick type movie) we even bring wine but we always have dark chocolate. Movies and other attractions are EXPENSIVE…they should just be happy I’m paying the ticket to show up! lol! That’s one thing I love about the hollywood bowl, they let you bring in everything (at most shows) including alcohol.

  8. Do you think the teenaged employees actually care?

    • No, I don’t think so at all, but it’s hard to explain why it’s OK to ignore this rule but not that one to a 6 year old, and it did make me think a bit more than I probably should have.

  9. We always sneak snacks. $10 for a soda, $10 for popcorn and so on is just insane.

  10. I always bring some sort of snack or drink into places like that. My wife and I love going to the horse track and they have a similar policy. We always bring in a pop and some snacks. It’s way better than paying for their overpriced, not so great, food.

    • Right, if it was super great food that would be different, but amusement park food,especially, is terrible and tastes like cardboard.

  11. We will sneak candy in but we will buy popcorn. I figure it’s a good compromise.

  12. Our movie theater has been sited multiple times for health violations, some related to food prep. They shut it down once it was so bad. So maybe we should all justify our disobedience as just looking out for our health. 🙂

  13. We don’t bring snacks into the movies, and here’s my theory: if I can justify breaking this rule to my kids (or myself), what argument do I have if they break a more serious rule? Where is the line drawn between rules it’s ok to break and rules it’s not ok to break? Not judging here, just giving the reasons we don’t break this insignificant rule. I’m a bit paranoid, for sure, but I do worry about what kind of example I set for the kids. Like Kim said, “If we can’t say it out loud, should we be doing it?” Kids tend to be so “Give ’em an inch and they take a mile”. This is why keeping the rules is such a big deal to us. As for movies, we either go with full tummies, or don’t go until we’ve saved up enough for movies and snacks. It does mean we don’t go very often, but that’s ok with us. :-). Thanks for a great post, Kim.

    • This is the exact moral dilemma I’ve been having. I don’t want to say it’s OK to break this rule and not that one. Where does it end?

  14. We’ve brought in water but other than that for a couple of hours, we’ll survive. We see some people having a full meal in the movie theatre but hey, it’s their choice. It’s like shopping on an empty stomach. If you go to the movies hungry you will likely want to buy. The smell also if very inviting and for most it’s hard to walk away from.We should be allowed to bring in water though. I think, to each their own.

  15. I carry snacks and water in my purse most of the time, especially for the movies. My mom used to do this, so I guess I did follow her example, but I don’t tend to be a rule-breaker very often at all, so I turned out okay! We don’t go to the movies very often, but I do try to eat beforehand or eat after so we have a meal to look forward to. There are several fast food joints within the same complex as the theatre, and people will bring their whole order with them. That’s going a little too far.

  16. I carry a couple of protein bars wherever I go. I have a metabolic disorder that causes my insulin to drop down really really fast and I need something to eat at that time. So I don’t purposely sneak snacks to save money per se, but yes I do sneak them in. Most of the time I won’t even remember I have them in there but that is not an excuse. We usually go to the late night show after dinner so I never had to buy anything anyway. We do buy soda though.

    • I would think in your case, it would be fine. I guess I honestly have snacks on me most of the time with a small child around. Why can’t we have them in the movies?

  17. I used to frequent a movie theater in a mall that allowed food from the restaurants in the mall. Sometimes, friends would bring in food such as candy etc. I normally bring in gum or hard candy. Now, we go to dinner after the movie so I would not want to eat food in the theater.

    • I want to go to one of the movie theaters that actually have dinner service. I’m sure it’s expensive, but from friends, I’ve heard it’s a fun experience.

  18. Gah! I’ve been outed! Yes, we’ve done this, because we don’t have the cash money for the crazy-priced snacks. I do feel bad about it, and haven’t done it in a few years, but that’s mostly because we get movie tickets for Christmas and it comes with a snack coupon. And we only watch one movie a year…

    • We never went very much either, but now that I’m off to go to the free kid movies they show every Tuesday, we’ve been going almost every week. I hate to negate the free admission with buying crap, but you feel like you should because it was free to get in. Catch 22!

  19. Great question! I’ve always brought stuff into the movies and never thought twice about it. But your point about having to shush your daughter is a really good one. What’s the line between rules that are okay to break and rules that aren’t? I honestly don’t have an immediate answer, but you’ve definitely got me thinking. I guess the morally correct answer is to either not eat anything or pay the price. Maybe allow an exception for water. Very interesting.

  20. Definitely, or just not buy snacks.

  21. My philosophy is that if the movie theater really didn’t want us to sneak snacks in, they have an x-ray machine at the entrance.

  22. I pay a ton of money every year to see films at our local theater rather than wait for them to come out on video. I feel no guilt at all in telling my kid that we’re saving money by not buying the overpriced items at the concession stand.

    Funny: there’s a Bed, Bath and Beyond just down the strip mall from our theater. Right up front, near the door, they have a huge array of movie theater sized snacks, but for a third of the price of the same ones at the theater.

  23. Kim!!! Your habits are my habits, totally. Not only do I have absolutely no qualms about sneaking snacks into a movie, I’ll sneak them into a pub as well. If I am paying $4-$5 a pint, I ain’t paying for snacks, so I’ll take a bag of nuts or Nut Thins or something easy to hide. No one has ever said anything if they us sneaking snacks. And just this morning at the coffee shop I got hungry, so I took a free tiny tub of salsa and saltines and made a snack of that. I paid $1.89 for the damn coffee, so I feel pretty good about the free snack. You’re dead on with this in my book, moral-free book;)

  24. Some days it’s tough knowing what’s right! Or if we’re being hyper-sensitive or not. We do generally buy our food from concessions (which is very overpriced and has long lines) because we typically buy popcorn. More often I try to convince the girls to forgo treats or share so we can go out for dinner afterwards. Sometimes it works. 🙂

    • The smell is just too strong sometimes, and sometimes it’s just easier to suck it up than listen to how “hungry” or “thirsty” your kid is for two hours.

  25. You know, the one thing I can’t do is eat/drink and watch a movie (especially at the theaters). All the intensity (e.g. if I’m watching Man of Steel) makes me want to go take a leak, but I don’t want to miss any of the good stuff!

  26. I have never snuck food into the movies, usually we go full or eat after, well it’s been a while since we went at all, and I am not a fan of pop corn.
    But I bring food in the plane if they charge $5 for a chocolate bar. Some restaurants here let you bring your bottle of wine and charge a small fee for opening it for you and giving you glasses, I find it fair and better than paying for the markup on wine. Paying $1.5 to bring food will save you a lot, unless it is per item.

    • I’ve actually been to restaurants that let you bring in wine and charge a corking fee or something similar. That’s a great way to save, plus you get to choose what you like. I do like movie popcorn, and this is too much information, but I have a permanent retainer on my lower teeth from orthodontic work years ago, and popcorn does not agree with it at all!

  27. I haven’t been to the movies in a few years, so I haven’t had to sneak in anything lately. I did however used to bring boxes of candy (junior mints usually) into the theater with me when I was in HS. These days I’m trying to cut back on processed junk food, so I might take a healthier snack with me. If the usher asked me to put it away or leave I would. They obviously lose money when people bring in their own food, so I can understand why they wouldn’t want me to.

  28. I will go to the earliest movie to buy cheap tickets, but I get my snacks at the movie theater. I have heard that the business of running a movie theater is crazy expensive and that they stay in business on the concession stand revenue, so I like to do my part to keep the movie theater in business. Would you sneak in to another movie after your movie is finished without paying for an additional ticket? For me that would be the same thing. Although I would like to be able to buy an all you can view movie pass for say a little less than double the price of a single ticket to be able to watch as many movies as I would like on a Saturday.

    • Good point. I would love the idea of a multi movie pass. I’ve seen that with special occasion type trilogy marathons, but not a regular thing. Although, I probably would be falling asleep after two movies!

  29. I was so glad to find this post. I hid sodas in my purse to the free kids’ movie a few weeks ago. I did buy a value popcorn and divided it up among the four of us. I was very nervous for some reason that other patrons would rat me out or that employees would notice. Silly, I know.

  30. Absolutely and unapologetically sneak food in. My 7 yr old is now responsible for his own sneaking. Most importantly he understands WHY we sneak - it helps our family save money and refuses to participate in a system that rips people off.

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