F.or years, smuggling food and drink into cinemas has felt like a crime, but no more. Our wildest dreams have come true, and it has finally been confirmed that, yes, you can officially bring your own snacks to watch films in public places.
It was actually back in 2019 that a Twitter user, @halilmemz, asked Cineworld, Odeon and Vue: “Am I allowed to bring my own food and drinks into the screen?” For some reason their answer – a unanimous yes – recently resurfaced online and has, once and for all, dismantled the long-held notion that audiences are only allowed to eat food bought in the cinema foyer. Does this revelation change cinema etiquette? Well, yes and no.
On the plus side, if you have ever snuck a pack of corner-shop Haribo into a cinema under your jumper, you don’t need to do that any more. Put it in a bag. Carry it in your hand. Wave it at cinema employees for all it matters. You no longer have to feel ashamed about sneaking in snacks.
However, don’t think you can bring along any food you like. Unless you’re at one of those fancy cinemas that serve meals in your seat, hot food is absolutely out of the question. Hot food can transmit smells much more effectively than, say, a grab bag of Cadbury Twirl Bites. Tuck into a burger or a curry in the middle of The Batman and you run the risk of offending the rest of the audience. This can happen. At one preview screening I attended years ago, a leading critic for a national newspaper flounced out of the film almost immediately because someone was eating a Big Mac.
As an aside, cold food can also smell. South Korean cinemas often have signs banning people from eating dried squid during film viewings. So don’t do that either.
Finally, just because you can bring in your own food, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Cinemas barely made it through the pandemic intact, and many are still struggling. For the most part, audience numbers haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels and, of the few tickets that do get sold, the lion’s share of the money goes straight to the film studios.
The thing that quite often separates a cinema’s success from its failure is the money raised through its concession stand. If you can afford it – and it’s a big if – that pre-film bag of Maltesers is one of the best ways to demonstrate your loyalty to your local independent cinema.