1. It might be interesting to do the math. Assume a person was seated at the moment the theater doors were opened and stayed for the entire movie. Let’s guess that a person could be there for, oh, three hours total. Let’s assume that a person just decided to spend the whole time eating popcorn and drinking soda, and didn’t have any interest in the movie — they would go directly from the concession stand to their seat, instantaneously consume their popcorn and soda, walk back to the stand and have it refilled.

    I would assume that the minimum round trip time would be at least five minutes. Probably much longer assuming standing in line, and, y’know, the actual time of eating stuff. But let’s pretend “five minutes”. So a person could make, say, 36 trips in 3 hours. Call it 36 liters of soda, 36 gallons of popcorn.

    What is the actual cost to the theater of 36 liters of soda and 36 gallons of popcorn? That’s 18 cups of kernels, maybe five pounds of popcorn kernels, which is, like ten bucks retail. Probably another ten dollars of butter-flavored grease and salt. Maybe about ten bucks in ice and soda. You’re not having to pay for 36 cups, lids, straws, and buckets, which are the real costs.

    So I think it would be physically impossible to cost the theater more than, say, thirty bucks. They charge you maybe ten bucks? So while I think it would be POSSIBLE for a theater to lose twenty bucks on a person, I can’t imagine it happening very often.

  2. He’s commenting on the movie starting late (or them showing up early) enough to consume that much before the curtain rises. Based on the empty theater, probably the latter, but then it would be easier for the management to just refuse early admission.

  3. I’ve never heard of a movie giving *any* refills. Why would they?

    >And if this is some “unlimited free refills” deal, which doesn’t seem to be the case here,

    why doesn’t it seem to be the case? It seems to be *exactly* the case, to me.

    > the theatre can’t unilaterally change the terms.

    Why not? Who else would be involved?

  4. I have been to a theater that offered free refills on popcorn.
    But I don’t think they are under any obligation to offer the same terms in the future.

  5. The theater was counting on: That a normal person couldn’t eat an entire big tub of popcorn before the movie started. That they wouldn’t want to miss a huge chunk of the movie waiting in the concession line for a refill.
    The first expectation was subverted by the infamous teenage appetite for food.

    I always thought the soda sizes were so big in order to force you to leave the movie to go to the bathroom and then have to see the movie again to catch up on the good part you missed.

  6. Many theaters do allow soda and popcorn refills, typically just of the largest size. I suppose the rationale is that patrons would be unlikely to buy more than one soda and one popcorn, but may be willing to choose a larger size if it is a better deal, and the incremental cost to the theater is small. Sometimes there is a limit of one refill.

    While it is possible that the change in terms was an addition to the fine print that Jeremy had not yet noticed, the wording makes it more likely that the change was unilaterally imposed by the concession staff, secure in the knowledge that Jeremy is a teenager and has little recourse.

  7. Finally learned to take in a small soda and resist sipping until late in the movie, especially during long ones like the Harry Potters.

    In one case I was trying to ignore a strained bladder as the film built towards a climax. It involved Dumbledore having to drink the entire contents of a large magical basin as Harry fought off supernatural wraiths. A long sequence of Dumbledore, filled beyond human capacity, forcing himself to keep … drinking … more … water …

    Don’t recall if I saw the ending of that one. Ideally it included Dumbledore announcing that he needed to see a wizard about a magic canine.

  8. To me, the gag has less to do with the theater policy and mostly to do with the ongoing theme of Jeremy’s voracious teenage boy appetite. He just downed 3 big sodas and popcorns, the original purchase and the two refills, before the movie even starts. I’m sure the term refills implied that they were free, that is why the theater is limiting them. I’m guessing he can go get more refills after the movie starts??

  9. What John said. As for “can’t change the terms”: for teenagers they will at least think they can.

    Because kids aren’t, you know, people. /s

  10. There’s no reason to assume free refills, especially since the writer of the strip could easily have inserted the word to make the gag wotk.

  11. I can’t speak for popcorn — but when I was delivering coffee for Mr. Miller’s dimes, a Coke from the fountain cost the restaurant about a penny. On one hand that was the 1960s. On the other hand, I know that Coke actually costs less now (NOT adjusted for inflation) than it did in the late 1970s, so a theatre’s going to make a killing no matter how many free refills they give (especially considering they probably charge a premium for the “free refills” option.

    And of course if the refills aren’t free, Jeremy’s soda consumption will probably pay for the theatre owner’s European vacation.

  12. “secure in the knowledge that Jeremy is a teenager and has little recourse”

    His recourse is not paying $15 for the “soda with unlimited refills” next time.

  13. At the Blues games, the largest size popcorn (a fairly sizeable tub) has free refills. Sometimes people share among several people.

  14. I wonder whether the electricity to run the popcorn machine costs the theatre more than the popcorn itself.

  15. Just as I don’t watch movies in my dining room, I wouldn’t go to a movie theatre to eat & drink (if I were to go to a movie theatre) . . . and I don’t understand those who do. Go to movies to eat & drink, that is.

    I also don’t understand the ‘no meals on the plane trip’ complaint; you’re on a plane to get from here to there, safely, not to have a meal, unless it’s a really long trip.

  16. B.A. — looking up the info for a home hot air popper, I think a home popper would cost about a penny per serving; I’d assume the energy cost would be on the same order on a larger scale.

    Checking alibaba.com, it looks like the most expensive thing in a bucket of popcorn is the bucket, which can be as much as thirty cents per for the good ones.

  17. Ianosmond, the theatre’s popcorn machine probably uses proportionately more electricity since it keeps the popcorn warm (and sometimes mixing it around) after it’s made, whereas at home you just pour it into a bowl and eat it.

    But it still makes a negligible dent in the profits.

  18. Andréa, for a lot of people eating popcorn is part of the theatre-going experience, like hot dogs at a ballgame. We used to get it all the time. She can’t eat popcorn anymore (and I’m not going to buy a bucket just for me) but when I visited my cousins in Dallas last year, we laid waste to two Texas-sized buckets.

  19. B.A. — and the “bucket” thing explains why free refills are a thing: when the actual cost is the thing you’re filling, rather than the thing you’re filling it with, it’s a pretty easy choice to allow people to refill those things as much as they want. Even two refills before the movie starts.

    If I go to the theater and get the jumbo combo with the collector’s cup that has the logo of the blockbuster movie printed on it, that popcorn bucket might be thirty cents and the cup might be fifty cents, even possibly a dollar. Flavored bubbly corn-syrup water and a few ounces of our cheapest bulk grain, exploded up to massive size with air — those aren’t gonna be a big marginal cost. Jeremy and Sara aren’t gonna ding the profits much just because they need the bucket and cup filled three times before the trailers start.

  20. Reminds me of an old Dennis the Menace cartoon. Dennis set up a lemonade stand, “All You Can Drink $1.” (Back when a dime bought a bottle of soda.) Caption: “I say that’s all you can drink. THAT’s who says that’s all you can drink.”

  21. Refills definitely implies “free”. I’ve never seen charges for a refill. If they’re not free refills, they’re selling you a new cup/bucket.

  22. “Refills definitely implies “free”. I’ve never seen charges for a refill.”

    I’ve seen people go to places in a food court and get discounted refills, even though there’s no mention of that possibility on the menus.

  23. I took it to mean that to stop him from eating as a teenage boy – he was told that there was a limit of 2 refills BEFORE the movie starts, and the unlimited part is while the movie is on – as he will be too busy watching the movie then to keep going out.

    We don’t eat at the movies – eat dinner before we go. One exception was when I saw my first (and second) James Bond movies. We were in college and had met after work to go to the movies. I had not had dinner. We were the only ones in the theater and I was sent to the back of the back of theater to eat my popcorn dinner so I didn’t bother him with eating noises. He takes his James Bond very seriously. I forget which 2 movies we saw, but the bad guy in the first movie was his friend in the second which I did not know and kept waiting for a fight between them. He has already seen both movies – more than once.

  24. A major movie chain that has theaters here used to have Classic films for US$1 at 1:00 on Monday afternoons. This started while Robert was still working and every vacation I would try to get him to go but -“I don’t like to go to movies during the day”. Sometime after he quit his job, and I had been trying to get him to go to this program, they were showing “Charade” (with Cary Grant, yes, there is an older movie with the same title). I mentioned it to him. (I had never seen it in the movies only on TV.) He did not want to go. I said to him “Charade”. We watch it every time it is on TV. We will stay up all night to see it. Charade. He finally agreed to go. Of course we were the youngest people there other than a young woman in her wheelchair and her companion. At the end of the movie he turned to me and said “What is next week’s movie?” (It was a Hope-Crosby road picture.) After that we went weekly until the program ended (and it surprised me how many of the much older than us other patrons had never heard of a variety of celebrities who were in the various movies.

    The movies came with free popcorn and soda. In one of the two theaters we saw them in, one stopped at the lobby snack counter for same. The other theater, which we decided we liked better (for other than snack reasons) had the popcorn and soda in the theater with an employee (generally same one weekly) there to keep it all full.,though one did have to go the snack counter if one wanted butter added. We did not have popcorn or soda, but it was unlimited.

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