SteveSnodgrass.jpg
Steve Snodgrass
January's a big month for critically-acclaimed movies, but theatergoers who flock to Amour or Zero Dark Thirty shouldn't anticipate any breaks on concessions,

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Lawsuit Fails to Dissuade Movie Chains From Charging High Prices for Concessions

SteveSnodgrass.jpg
Steve Snodgrass
January's a big month for critically-acclaimed movies, but theatergoers who flock to Amour or Zero Dark Thirty shouldn't anticipate any breaks on concessions, despite a Michigander's attempt to legally force AMC to scale back its snack prices.

A settlement conference scheduled for this week was canceled after a Wayne County Circuit Court judge ruled a Nixon-era state law intended to prevent price gouging didn't protect Joshua Thompson from being charged $8 for Coke and a box of Goobers.

According to Thompson's attorney, the judge said it was the Department of Health's responsibility to monitor food sales.

"We said this has nothing to do with health," Kerry Morgan of Pentiuk, Couvreur & Kobiljak says. "The judge said get out of my courtroom."

Thompson's case received enormous media attention last March when the suit was filed. "It was crazy," recalls Morgan, who was invited to chat concession prices on an Australian drive-time radio show. Morgan says reaction to the case fell into two camps.

"It was pretty much 'this is a great day for consumers' and 'what, is your guy some kind of bum?'," Morgan says.

But concession prices are so steep that even moviegoers with jobs have trouble affording a bucket of popcorn. A medium-sized serving typically retails for $6, which - as Nightline pointed out in a 2008 report - means movie popcorn costs more per ounce than filet mignon. In Michigan, the minimum hourly wage is $7.40.

Still, Morgan suspects the state's conservative Supreme Court wouldn't consider extending the reach of a price control measure which Michigan's attorney general has successfully used to block gas station owners from overcharging during gas shortages. He didn't bother to appeal when Thompson's case was dismissed.

"If you're a Marxist, it's a great idea," Morgan says. "If you're laissez-faire, it's a horrible law. My guy's neither. He just doesn't want to pay so much for popcorn."

He also doesn't want to stop going to the movies, Morgan reports.

"I told him to get a Netflix subscription," Morgan says. "He said OK, but he's going to the movies again. But he's a big guy, so he might carry something [food and drink] under his coat like every other American in this country."

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