Protecting Profits, Not People

So the news that Regal Cinemas is instituting bag searches at their theaters has been making the rounds.

Honestly, I didn’t even think to blog it when I first read about it because I presumed that everyone knows the real reason – and that it has nothing to do with public safety. It turns out that Sebastian suggested not everyone realizes the extent to which it has absolutely nothing to do with guns.

See, Regal, like every movie theater chain I’ve heard of, bans food and drinks not purchased at their concession stands.

Outside Food or Drink:
No outside food or drink is permitted in the theatre.

As this Time article notes, the theaters see about 85% of every dollar spent at the concession as pure profit. The money isn’t made at the ticket counter, but at the concession stand.

How bad is it? Search on the terms Regal Cinema and candy, and the first page includes Yelp reviews talking about how to sneak candy into the theater to save big bucks over Regal’s inflated prices. I could buy an entire pound of Twizzlers at Wegmans today for less than what Regal discounts a regular size candy to on Mondays for members of their rewards club.

Theater owners know that people sneak food and drinks in so that they don’t have to stop at the concession stand. I have no doubt that they have talked about ways that they could catch these people and toss their outside food for years, but only now feel like they have enough “cover” to do so in the name of public safety. It’s not about catching anything that’s a threat to the safety of patrons, but about catching those people who want to save a buck and forcing them to feed Regal’s profits.

I have little doubt that if you could spend a week watching which bags they choose to search, they will universally be targeted on those who don’t walk up with anything from the concession stand and those who appear poor (as though they might want to save a several dollars). It won’t be some creepy dude who buys a soda while carrying a suspiciously shaped bag.

19 Responses to “Protecting Profits, Not People”

  1. ARL says:

    So lets say some ne’er-do-well goes to a Regal theater with the intent of committing a violent felony with a firearm. He walks to the theater entrance…but wait, a unarmed minimum-wage, possibly teenaged usher is demanding to see inside the ne’er-do-well’s bag! What happens now?

    1) Ne’er-do-well’s plot is foiled and he gives up without a fight.
    2) Ne’er-do-well figures now is as good a time as any to start his crime spree.

    • Bitter says:

      And when the criminal decides to choose option 2, then the family of the teenager will get to sue for putting their son or daughter in the crosshairs as the first victim without giving any proper training or having any formal system for an armed response to step in before the kid gets shot. They wouldn’t be wrong, in that Regal will have created the situation without actual training for them to defend themselves from attack since Regal is claiming that this is about public safety. If they just came out and said it’s really about policing outside foods, then there’s no expectation that ticket takers must be trained and equipped to respond to public safety threats.

      • Divemedic says:

        Not true. Property owners have long been held to be immune from lawsuits that are the result of the illegal acts of third parties, as long as the property owner took reasonable steps to prevent it, and a “no guns” policy has long been accepted as sufficient, and I am not aware of a single case where an employer or property owner is required to provide defense training or armed guards for employees or invitees to the property in the event of a shooting.

        • Bitter says:

          I didn’t say they were required. I said that I could see a suit being filed. With the filing of a suit comes the court of public opinion, and that’s where a family would stand a good chance at a settlement offer. When I said they wouldn’t be wrong, I didn’t mean in a strict legal sense, but in a sense of creating a legal and PR headache that could cost the company.

        • Ian Argent says:

          Forcing liability on the property owner for taking ineffective measures to disarm visitors would take legislative action. But I would love to see a liability regime where, if you post, you had better secure to the level of, say, my local courthouse, or your going to get sued into your next life.

          • Kirk Parker says:


            We, as free Americans, one and all have the right to self-defense, and effective tools to carry out the same. If a venue decides to ban them, they really ought to have to assume the liability if something bad happens.

            I long for the day when businesses’ insurance vendors start counseling them not to declare their facility a gun-free zone, on account of the increased liability exposure.

        • Kirk Parker says:

          You’re right, Divemedic… but it’s beyond time when the mere assertion of a “gun-free” zone should be considered to have the slightest weight.

    • Alien says:

      Certainly a reasonably plausible scenario, especially considering there’s usually a crowd at the concession counter waiting to be served, all of whom are both facing away from the doors and silhouetted against the bright concession area lights, the lobby is well lighted making it easier to see the front sight than in a dark theater, and the front doors are only several steps away making escape easier.

      Gee, why wouldn’t I want to stand there and wait for overpriced popcorn?

  2. Ed says:

    I carry a Mountainsmith Tour bag everywhere I go as “man purse”. If the pimply faced kid wants to look in my bag and ignores the bump on my hip have at it. You are just going to see my wallet, keys, flashlight, cell phone, tablet and mobile hotspot.

  3. Brian says:

    I don’t get it. Except maybe for summer, it isn’t that hard to put something in your pants. And men don’t carry bags (minus exceptions like Ed, apparently). If they just check moms with purses they’re going to hear about it.

  4. Ian Argent says:

    Ram it down their throats. If they’re taking an active measure to disarm their customers, then they can damn well take liability for harm if someone does go active.

  5. Granny Grunch says:

    Just another reason for NOT going to a motion picture show. We haven’t been to one since pop corn was a dime and they took the gold fish out of the third floor balcony fountain.

  6. beatbox says:

    And it will be some minimum wage teenager charged with this task.

  7. mike w. says:

    Movie theaters near me have been doing bag checks for a while now, and it has always been about keeping out food/drinks. They do such checks at UD football games too and I’d bet money it’s for the same exact reason. Plus the guys doing the checks confiscate plenty of beers (free beer for them!)

  8. Anonumouse says:

    My mother in law went to a Regal last week, before this got press. They “searched” her purse and found the water bottle she was sneaking in, but missed the REVOLVER IN THE SAME COMPARTMENT.

    • Bitter says:

      That highlights the point that once they spot the food or drink, they don’t care about anything else. Like I said, they probably LOVE that “public safety” gives them the excuse to search everyone for food and beverages.

  9. RAH says:

    The answer is to say NO Refuse the search IT violates the 4 amendment Of course they can deny you entrance,But is the customers get pissed and refuse, then the practice will stop.

    • Kirk Parker says:

      Actually, unless it’s a government-owned or -operated theater, no it doesn’t.

  10. Patrick says:

    We took a school friend on a special diet (allergies). The theater people didn’t do a search, but we weren’t hiding anything. Once I said “allergies” they were quite accommodating.

    Movies are pricey and the theater operators gotta make a buck, too. It’s not like the studios are big on revenue sharing.

    I got little kids and would gladly pay for a few hours watching something without animation (and I just got back from Disney last night, so I am double jaded at the moment).