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It seems that as time goes on, the idea of going out to the movie theater is becoming a more formal and expensive proposition. One would think that with streaming alternatives and pay-per-view and cable windows seemingly shrinking that seats would start to become perilously vacant. While it is true that ticket numbers aren’t exactly on the general upswing, theaters are not quite in the red just yet. Why? Because of that delicious, butter-covered crunching concoction we mindlessly shovel into our faces while enjoying the flicks.
According to a report from Fortune, theater chain AMC Entertainment, the second largest chain behind Regal Entertainment, actually left 2014 with a profit. How? Concession sales -- primarily, popcorn. The tasty treat has managed to turn concession sales into as big of a business as ever. Based on the report’s cited figures, they brought AMC $798 million in 2014; a figure improved by 7.8% from last year’s $787 million. Yet, whether you order popcorn in a big-ass bag or an obscenely slothful tub, bundled together with a giant soda that will force you to make an "impromptu intermission" before the end of the first act, the cost/profit ratio is likely startling. Yet, the concept seems to be providing the necessary congealment for the slowly, but surely hemorrhaging ticket sales.
Certainly, concession sales are the oldest "got you buy the balls" concept there is in the history of cinematic commerce. You’re more likely to sneak off past Checkpoint Charlie during the Cold War with a T-shirt that says in big letters, "Yay Capitalism" than you are in attempting to successfully sneak your home-popped microwave concoction into the theater. Yet, despite the problematic costs, and seemingly more convenient alternatives provided by streaming and cable (proven by the recent debacle over The Interview), theater attendance has not fallen to epidemic levels just yet.
We are beginning to see an effort with an increasing number of movie chains, AMC, specifically, to at least try and justify those high ticket prices and ridiculous concessions costs by investing in spacious "luxury seating." The upgraded butt backers let you restfully recline like some public La-Z-Boy, all while, in some cases, enjoying alcoholic drinks thanks to secured liquor licenses. Those theaters don’t have you crammed into a row, bumping elbows with sticky strangers, and even have plenty of room for people to get up and walk back and forth from the rows without inconsiderately forcing other people to achieve yoga poses.
I suppose that as long as the trend of rising costs start to become justified in improving the theater-going experience, then that spending "spell" may manage to last long enough.