A Michigan man has filed a class action lawsuit against AMC Theatres, accusing the chain of illegally charging customers excessive concession prices. Joshua Thompson claims those prices -- $4 for a box of gummy worms and $6 for stale popcorn -- violate the state's Consumer Protection Act.
Though noble in goal, Thompson's movie snack lawsuit may not make it to trial. Legal scholars point to a 1999 Michigan Supreme Court ruling, telling the Hollywood Esquire that it practically guts the consumer protection law with respect to regulated industries. If applicable, the suit faces dismissal.
But if by some miracle the movie snack lawsuit survives, Joshua Thompson and other moviegoers may have a decent chance at winning a payout. Michigan's Consumer Protection Act prohibits "charging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold."
Movie theatres make 85% pure profit on candy and soda sales, reports the Hollywood Esquire. Theatres can also take in up to $3,000 on only $30 worth of popcorn kernels. It's also quite common for prices to be 3 to 4 times more than those charged at corner stores.
The movie industry has tried to justify these prices in the past. Higher concession prices allow theatres to drop the price of admission. This in turn makes movies more accessible to the general public.
There's no doubt AMC will try to fend off the movie snack lawsuit with this argument. But whether it succeeds will depend on the court's interpretation of the statute's very narrow exceptions.