Ms. 35 offers helpful advice and answers to your etiquette questions related to NYC's moving image culture. Have a burning question about navigating the exciting world of New York City moviegoing? Unsure of how to conduct yourself during a communal experience? Feel like you're… in the dark? Send your inquiries to Ms35@screenslate.com!
Dear Ms. 35,
I love going to tons of old, new and weird movies playing at so many theaters in NYC at any given time. Props to Screen Slate for keeping my movie going experience organized!
Here's my dilemma: I don't make a ton of money, so once I buy the (usually) $14.50 ticket to a film, the last thing I want to do is spend the same amount (or more!) on theater snacks. Is it cool if I sneak in my own Duane Reade-brand gummy worms and seltzer? Or is that totally unfair to the not-always-corporate movie theaters in the city? (One time I even made popcorn at home and snuck it in, but I was in between jobs at the time.)
Looking forward to your answer,
Nice!© Gummy Gal
Dear Gummy Gal,
What a delicious question! Refreshing as a bucket-sized soda; tastily layered as a Take 5 bar! And that coda about sneaking your own popcorn - good hustle, Gummy Gal.
Your plight is familiar to any New York cinephile, and presents an interesting ethical quandary. Between astronomical rent prices, the ever-increasing cost of public transportation, and miscellaneous expenses (coffee, an exterminator, etc.), it’s a wonder Jane Q. Public can afford the price of admission! So kudos to you for scaring up enough scratch to patronize one of our many fine movie houses.
If your question were limited to the UA Court Street or AMC Times Square, we’d have no column, because this would be a no-brainer. Sneak that shit, and snack away! If you fear there aren’t enough folks dropping a Jackson on popcorn and Jujubees to cover your cheap ass, then by all means, buy something, but don’t worry that your contraband SnoCaps will put major chains out of business.
Your concern for smaller venues, however, is a valid one. If you think living in New York is expensive, try running a fucking movie theater! With revival houses in a constant state of near-crisis, these institutions need all the help they can get. For every bootleg bag of Haribo and Canada Dry you smuggle into a 2pm matinee of Howard’s End, the theater of your choice loses another $30 of your hard-earned money.
What, indeed, is a financially insecure, hypoglycemic film fan to do?
Remember, the prime reason you’re in the theater is for the film itself (and tangentially, the smart programming that put it there)—snacks are a secondary, if delightful, addition to your moviegoing experience. No jury would convict you for having a nosh during your third go-round of The Turin Horse, but if your occasional hot tea and noisy Sun Chips eventually results in a space’s demise, you’ve nothing to blame but your own penny-pinching.
While I couldn’t dig up statistics to support this, my totally unscientific, purely anecdotal experience indicates a direct correlation between non-profit status and full-service concession stands. Film Forum, BAMCinematek, and Film Society of Lincoln Center, just to name a few, offer membership packages in addition to a bevy of snack classics! Of course, if you’re broke enough to bring your own popcorn, membership may not be an option for you at this juncture. That said, if/when your ship comes in, I’d strongly recommend getting that membership as retroactive thanks to the small army of ushers and volunteers who turned a blind eye to your gluttony.
Depending on the venue, a membership could well be a more cost-effective way to get your movie fix. Reduced admission is often de rigueur, and—who knows?—you may score a discount at the concession stand, too.
See you at the movies,
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