Moviegoer Files Suit Over Concession Stand Costs

Published in CSP Daily News

Seeks to force theaters to lower snack, drink prices

DETROIT -- Joshua Thompson, a security technician from Livonia, Mich., has filed a class-action lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court against American Multi Cinema, his local AMC theater chain, in hopes of forcing theaters statewide to lower snack prices at the concession stand, reported the Detroit Free Press.

"He got tired of being taken advantage of," Thompson's lawyer, Kerry Morgan of Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak, P.C.,Wyandottem Mich., told the newspaper. "It's hard to justify prices that are three- and four-times higher than anywhere else."

American Multi Cinema would not comment on the suit, said the paper, and a staffer at the National Association of Theatre Owners in Washington, D.C., hung up the phone when asked about industry snack pricing practices.

Although consumer experts predicted that the case will be dismissed, it has struck a chord with area moviegoers, who said they are tired of being overcharged for movie food and drink.

Thompson did not want to be interviewed because he doesn't want any notoriety, Morgan said. But Thompson said in his lawsuit that he used to take his own pop and candy to the AMC in Livonia until the theater posted a sign banning the practice.

On Dec. 26, 2011, he paid $8 for a Coke and a package of Goobers chocolate-covered peanuts at the Livonia theater--nearly three times the $2.73 he paid for the same items at a nearby fast-food restaurant and drug store, the suit said.

The suit accused AMC theaters of violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act by charging grossly excessive prices for snacks.

The suit seeks refunds for customers who were overcharged, a civil penalty against the theater chain and any other relief Judge Kathleen Macdonald might grant.

Consumer lawyers predicted that Macdonald will dismiss the suit. "It's a loser," Gary Victor, an Eastern Michigan University business law professor, told the paper. He said state Supreme Court decisions in 1999 and 2007 exempted most regulated businesses from the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

Griping about excessive prices at the theater concession is a time-honored tradition, Paul Dergarabedian, an analyst for movie industry website Hollywood.com, told the Free Press.

"But like high airline prices, it's just one of those things that we've become accustomed to because we don't have any control over it."