Why Alcohol Is Quietly Becoming More Important To Movie Theaters

movie theaters

For a long time, the movie theater snack trinity was simple, popcorn, soda, candy. That was all you really needed. Today, however, you can have a four-course meal in some theaters and your beverage options aren't limited to soft drinks. More and more theaters are turning to alcohol to give a bump to their bottom line. As it turns out, the booze is almost all additional business and, according to AMC theater VP George Patterson, the majority of theatergoers can take advantage of it.

It is the fastest-growing amenity in our industry. Dollar for dollar, alcohol doesn't cannibalize candy, soda or popcorn. If I put a bar in, I can almost guarantee my food and beverage revenue will go up. Over 70 percent of our guests are over the age of 21.

Movie theater attendance is remaining flat at best and slowly declining at worst according to The Hollywood Reporter. While the vast majority of ticket revenue ends up going to the movie studios anyway, the issue is that if there are fewer people in the theater, then there are fewer people buying popcorn and soda, resulting in a loss of revenue for the theater. The solution is to get each of those people that do come to the movies to spend more in order to make up for the people that aren't there.

This is why many theaters have begun to add bars and serve alcohol. As the AMC Theaters VP states, the alcohol isn't simply replacing an existing sale, it's an additional purchase on top of the popcorn, meaning that overall revenue goes up. When nearly three-quarters of your audience can buy a drink, it's safe to guess that a decent percentage will.

One interesting exception to the alcohol in movie theaters growth is the state of New York. It's actually against the law in New York for theaters to sell alcohol, following lobbying efforts from Broadway theaters back in the 1930s. However, there is a strong possibility that could change.

It will be interesting to see how the sale of alcohol grows over time. It appears to be working very well in the theaters that have implemented it, which will likely lead to others adding it in order to compete.

Overall this seems like a win-win for the theater and the movies. While the theater makes more money, which is great for them, the fact that booze is being sold could be great news for terrible movies. Wouldn't people be more likely to go see a potentially bad film if they knew they could drink while doing it?

Are you looking forward to being able to buy a beer at your local theater this summer? Are you already drinking at the movies? Let us know what you think of all this in the comments below.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.