Theater Chain Begins Recession Special: $1 Popcorn and Sodas
By Brooks Barnes
Movie theaters may be experiencing a surge in weekend ticket sales – front-door receipts for the year are up an astonishing 17 percent over the same period in 2008 – but weeknights at most multiplexes are still a drag.
So Carmike Cinemas, a movie theater chain that operates 2,276 screens in 36 states, is trying out a Tuesday-night stimulus plan: Starting March 10, Carmike Theaters will sell 16-ounce sodas and 46-ounce popcorns for $1 each.
Drastic cuts in concession prices are rare because the snack bar is where movie theater companies make the most profit. And Carmike’s concession results haven’t been so hot lately; with third-quarter sales dropping 8.3 percent to $41.8 million, though a Carmike spokesman said the decline was due to the closure of 20 underperforming theaters. (The company reports fourth-quarter results on March 16.)
But Carmike, which focuses on cities with populations around 100,000, hopes the promotion will stimulate customer loyalty while luring new patrons – who will hopefully notice new digital and 3-D projection upgrades and keep coming back. At movie theaters, “prices like these have not been seen since the 1970s,” said Dale Hurst, Carmike’s director of marketing.
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