Now that the COVID is on a downward trend, it’s vital that we pretend it was all a bad dream and exuberantly return to what we were doing before without changing our behavior in any way whatsoever. And that means heading back to the movies! And going to the movies means brushing up on our sneaking-in-snacks skills.
This recent article from Spoon University outlines some tried-and-true methods for sneaking food into movie theaters. It’s full of solid advice like:
- Bring only items already sold in the theater.
- Don’t bring anything too smelly.
- Big pockets are your friend.
- Stick it in your bag.
- Sneak food into the theater in your stomach, by eating it first. (I made that one up)
All worthy advice that fails to address the elephant in the multiplex, the one overarching fact that should color all efforts to sneak food into movie theaters: No one actually cares. You need to be a little sneaky, but not that sneaky, because, well, see the preceding sentence.
Concession sales may be the multiplex’s main source of profit, but the 17-year-old who rips your ticket almost definitely doesn’t give a shit on a personal level, nor are they paid enough to care on a professional level. They just want to get through the workday without being hassled. So remember the golden rule:
- Give employees plausible deniability. You don’t have to hide your cake in a fake pregnancy belly; you just have to make your smuggling easier to ignore than it is to confront. As long as the candy bar isn’t sticking out of your pocket and you’re not eating a whole pizza as you enter, you should be good, even with that bulging hoodie pocket.
There are some important corollaries to this rule:
- Don’t be an asshole. If you give someone a reason to not like you, they could be motivated to use their minuscule amount of power to make your evening worse. It’s unlikely, but it could happen. So just smile and say “thank you” when they tear your ticket, and walk on by.
- Clean up after yourself. In this survey of some theater employees, the main complaint about candy-scofflaws is they leave a mess. Don’t do this; your parents would be ashamed.
“Okay, but what if I get caught?”
What if someone does care? What if Jujube sales have been conspicuously low for two months, and the district manager is breathing down the manager’s neck, so she sends the assistant manager out to rip the tickets to show the new-hires how to catch candy-smugglers? Well:
Don’t stress about it. Sneaking food into a theater isn’t illegal, so the worst that could happen is a little embarrassment. They could kick you out, but they’d probably just make you take your snack back to the car, or toss it out, or hold onto it until the movie is over. It’s all very low-stakes.Lie. If you’re confronted by an overzealous employee offended at the presence of the Snickers bar hanging out of your pocket, try saying, “I’m diabetic.” Or “I have extreme allergies.” Say it with friendly confidence while looking them in the eye, and offer no further explanation. Even if what you say it isn’t an explanation or doesn’t entirely make sense, chances are very good the movie theater employees will just wave you through anyway, if only to avoid an unpleasant conversation about your medical condition.Again, don’t be an asshole. This rule actually applies to all interactions with service employees (and everyone else) at almost all times.
The one instance in which you should never sneak food into a theater
I guess one could make the argument that it’s a kind of theft to break rules at a theater, but we inhabit a fallen world. Your virtue will only cost you money, and gain you nothing. Hell, movie theater employees sneak food into theaters themselves.
But there is an exception: All of the above advice assumes you’re attending a chain theater where small, concession-related monetary losses are just numbers on a Q3 spreadsheet that will quickly dissolve into a corporate profit scheme in a way you will never understand.
If you frequent an independent movie house, don’t smuggle food. The profit margins for these houses of cinematic worship are razor thin, and concessions sales really are how they make their nut, so the least you can do if you want to eat during a show is buy some Mike N’ Ikes to support them. You have to do your part to keep places like that open.
If you go to a theater where the “concessions” consist of brownies baked by the owner’s wife, always buy them. They’re going to be good, and also, that’s adorable.