In today’s Evening Standard (a free evening newspaper given out across London), it described how Cineworld has blamed their slowdown in revenue growth on the “challenging consumer environment”, with them seeing a 2.1% decrease in spending at popcorn counters in cinemas in 26 weeks till now (a decrease from 4% growth originally at the start of the year). My first instinct was how could Cineworld be surprised considering how expensive popcorn is these days and secondly, why has it only taken till now to realise/place the blame?
In “The Armchair Economist” by Steven Landsburg (great book for anyone), he explains that whilst the obvious explanation of high popcorn prices are due to the owner’s monopolising techniques/having to cover costs like cleaning, it probably has more to do with the diverse interests of theatre goers and the relationships between liking popcorn and liking movies. I get this I guess but I don’t think it explains anything really new or really give a good explanation – how can a small box of popcorn which probably costs roughly 20p to produce, cost £5 with prices on the increase?
Of course I can’t offer an explanation on this – if Landsburg can’t (and he can offer explanations on nearly everything else in the economic rational world), then I definitely can’t. But what I can say is that if the high prices are to cover those costs like maintenance, surely it would be better to increase actual ticket prices? This might seem odd of me to say considering that my first proper post was based on me being shocked to have to pay high adult fares, but I do think that I would pay an extra £2/3 to see the new Batman film, but not £4 for a bag of popcorn that I can buy for 99p from the Sainsbury’s next door.
So to deviate this slightly and add an anthropological touch I’d like to tell you about the increasing importance of popcorn in teenage lives. You may not be aware of this not being a teenager yourself, or perhaps this just applies to my college at Durham but I have really noticed this year the dependence that teenagers have formed with popcorn. I could even argue that it is replacing the traditional comfort of a cup of tea. Not a day went by without microwave popcorn bags in our bin, nor a revision session. It does have addictive tendencies – have you suddenly got an inkling for some popcorn after reading this post? It became part of prinking, just hanging out with friends, and at times midnight trips to Sainsbury’s just to get some (wow, who would know that Sainsbury’s would get such a correlation with popcorn). I can guarantee that if you go two days with having popcorn whilst watching your evening telly, next thing you know, you will be buying boxes of Butterkist with every weekly grocery shop.
In a world filled with youths up to no good, illegal addictions and riots, it is nice to see that there is hope for new, more fun, healthier (and legal) addictions. Praise Popcorn.
…. but not it’s extortionate prices in the cinema.