The Consumer Show sheds light on Ireland's "Popcorn Economy" and calculated an average mark-up of more than 700% on popcorn sold to cinemagoers by the big chains. TCS has also identified Ireland's most expensive and cheapest cinema night out.
A survey of cinema prices by The Consumer Show shows that the average price of a small popcorn is ¤4.19 across the 37 cinemas controlled by Ireland's big six cinema chains.
While portion sizes can vary, industry sources tell us that the standard 2oz small portion costs 50c to produce so The Consumer Show has calculated a mark-up of well over 700% in Ireland's six big cinema chains.
The Consumer Show reporter Tadhg Enright said: "Chomping on sweets and munching on popcorn has become part and parcel of the cinema experience. And cinema owners are only too keen to encourage it because the profits are enormous."
The link between popcorn and the cinema began in the 1950s in the United States when vendors began selling popcorn to cinema patrons while they queued outside. Before long, cinema owners spotted the potential for profit and started selling snacks in the foyer.
Damian O'Reilly, retail expert at the Dublin Institute of Technology said: "Cinema owners will try to get people there early.. Research has shown that people will spend an average of 10 to 15 minutes in the lobby prior to taking their seats. This is called 'dwell time'. We get the aroma of popcorn wafting through the lobby. All of these things make us feel happy and that makes us purchase more."
In March, The Consumer Show did its own survey of prices in cinemas and has identified Ireland Top 5 cheapest and most expensive cinema nights out:
Based on our criteria of a full adult priced ticket, a small popcorn and small drink, The Consumer Show Award for most expensive night out goes to Vue in Dublin's Liffey Valley where you'll pay ¤20.65, although their portion sizes are bigger than others. The runners up are Cineworld (¤19.80), Odeon (¤18.36) and the Movies@ chain (¤18.10).
It's independent cinemas that we found to be cheapest and The Consumer Show Award for cheapest night out goes to The Park Cinema in Clonakilty where a ticket, small popcorn and drink costs you ¤10.90 although its small drink is smaller than average.
The runners up are Bantry Cinemax (¤11.25), Empire Movieplex in Ennis (¤12.10) and Lifford Cineplex in Co. Donegal (¤12.10) but the Lifford cinema's popcorn is also smaller than average.
The Consumer Show contacted Ireland's Big Six cinema chains to ask them about their prices but none of them was willing to be interviewed.
Ireland's newest cinema chain, Odeon said in a statement that it offered: "....a fantastic all round cinema experience including great value combo deals...."
Cineworld said it's "competitively priced" and "great value compared to other leisure activities."
But IMC Cinemas, Omniplex, Vue and the Movies@ chain declined to comment.
Director of Dublin's arthouse cinema, The Lighthouse, Andrew Lowe told us: "The way the business works, particularly for multiplex cinemas where you're dealing with newly released Hollywood movies, is that the lion's share of the revenue will go to the movie distributor. The rule of thumb is that you break even in the 'bums on seats' side of the business and you make your profit on the retail side."