Lawsuits are odd. Many are obviously justified and they can be a great tool for social, economic, or political justice. Some people file them maliciously, in an attempt to silence critics or reap some reward for harms imagined or exaggerated. Other people are simply crazy, such as the criminal last year who sued the people he had kidnapped for escaping from his confinement. Yet others are simply filed by someone who must clearly have no idea what American law actually forbids or permits, like the woman who claimed that Drive didn't closely enough resemble its trailer for her liking.
"He got tired of being taken advantage of. It's hard to justify prices that are three and four times higher than anywhere else."Kerry Morgan, Thompson's lawyer
This latest entertainment-industry lawsuit most closely resembles that last category, as a Michigan man, Joshua Thompson, has filed a class action lawsuit against his local AMC theater, claiming that the prices on their concessions are simply too high for his liking. He claims that the high prices are not only against the spirit of capitalism but actually against the letter of the law, that law being the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, and is asking for Two lawyers interviewed by the Detroit Free Press both claim that the MCPA won't apply to this case, though, since the theater business in Michigan is apparently a regulated industry, which is exempt from the strictures of the act.
Now, if you'll turn to the MCPA and look at section 445.903.z, you'll find the following description of one act that is banned under the law: "(z) Charging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold." That is likely what Thompson was imagining when he filed his lawsuit, as he claims that he purchase a drink and candy bar at a convenience store, and then walked into a theater and bought the same items for three times as much money, as he was apparently forced to do by a maniacal theater owner who held a gun to his head.
Is it frustrating to see how much money things cost at a theater? Of course it is, which is why I don't buy concessions at a movie theater. As a citizen of a free nation, there is no one forcing me to plunk down 20 dollars every time I go to the movies to buy carbonated soft drinks and popcorn, and even if they were as cheap as they were anywhere else, I still wouldn't buy them, because movie theater food is some of the least-healthy stuff you can eat anywhere. But that's beside the point; Thompson's assertion that every retailer needs to sell the same items at the same prices negate the fact that different retailers use the same items to different ends. A convenience store might sell candy bars and soda at close to cost, hoping to upsell you on cigarettes and liquor while you're in the story; movie theaters make the bulk of their profits from selling snacks at inflated prices to a captive audience. If you have a problem with that, you have the simple ability to not buy candy, or put something in your pocket before you head inside. While many theaters might frown upon the practice of smuggling in food, I've yet to meet an usher or ticket-taker who has bothered to kick anyone out of a theater for having hidden food. If you walk in with a bucket of KFC, they'll ask you to throw it away, but approaching the issue with any kind of subtlety will let you go far.
Theaters would likely go bankrupt if forced to sell concessions at something closer to retail prices according to many theater owners; despite making up just 20% of revenue, concession sales make up 40% of many theater chains' profit. The Stanford Graduate School of Business went so far as to posit that high concession prices allow theaters to keep ticket prices low, which in turn helps bring in larger audiences, including both audiences that buy concessions and those that don't.
If I can get on a soapbox for a bit: I'm by no means a libertarian or anything, but these kind of lawsuits always annoy me, if only because they imply that people are idiots who have no agency over their own ability to rationally decide what to do with their money. If movie theaters were colluding to keep prices high, maybe you could sue them for that, assuming that they had a monopoly on the popcorn market (which they don't). If they sold the same product at different prices based on the color of your skin, go ahead and sue them for that. If said popcorn is contaminated with rat feces and ricin? Lawsuit! But claiming that a product that is in no way any kind of mandatory or really even a desirable purchase is too expensive? You get no sympathy from me on that count.