Of grain and sugar water

By Michael Olinger

Last week we spent our time discussing the expansion of summer movies into decidedly unsummery parts of the calendar. We also talked about declining attendance numbers in a time of rising profits. We discussed some of the reasons why those profits may be rising, but not all of them.

You see, after you drop the money for your ticket, be it 3D, IMAX, in a comfy leather recliner, or all of the above, you are going to have to walk past the concession stand. In the movie exhibitor business, that is where the real money is made.

Depending on how long a movie has been in release, the studio can take anywhere from 50% to well over 90% of the money made from each ticket. From the moment your money passes into the hands of the theater, the studio that made the movie you are seeing has their eager hand out. Higher ticket prices mean that the meager cut theaters take from each ticket is marginally improved.

Concessions, on the other hand, provides a multiplex with all the opportunity it needs to turn the tidy profit denied them in ticket sales.

In 2016, Cinemark made $1,789,137,000 from ticket sales. It paid back $962,655,000 in film rentals. That is well over half the money taken in at the box office. Meanwhile, they made over $990,000,000 in concessions.

A Time Magazine article from 2009 explained that it is not uncommon for a theater to make 85% of its revenue or more from their concession sales.

While the mark up on popcorn and soda, the two biggest sellers at most theaters, is undoubtedly enormous, with popcorn marked up over 800% and soda marked up over 500% per this column, it is understandable when you consider that these bubbly and airy treats are quite literally the financial foundation on which the theater industry sits.

While some theater chains see their prices march ever upward, though, Cinemark does its level best to keep things affordable for its patrons. At the beginning of each year customers can buy reusable popcorn buckets and soda glasses that entitle them to discounted concessions year round. Cinemark also offers bountiful discount opportunities through the use of its Cinemode cell phone app, which rewards movie goers with coupons on concessions for placing their phone on silent and dimming their screen during the movie, and through Cinemark Connections, a part of its app that awards points for loyalty that can be redeemed for discounts, among other things.

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