Never Wait for Popcorn Again with New Theater Apps

Going to the movies never sounded so good


Don’t you just hate waiting in lines?

You know the feeling — anxiously awaiting the person ahead of you in line to get their food, so you can put in your order at the movie theater’s snack bar. You’re trying to calculate how much time you can afford with the previews, but you’re nervous you’re going to miss the beginning of the film. The person in front of you can’t decide between a Coca-Cola Slurpee and a blue slushy, and you’re wishing for some more efficient way to order your snacks. Well, soon you’ll be able to!

AMC Theaters and Regal Entertainment, the largest multiplex chains in North America, are working on an app that will allow customers to preorder their drinks and snacks from their smartphones.

“Early results are very strong, albeit with a few expected operational bumps, which we are solving,” said John D. McDonald, AMC’s executive vice president for United States operations. “We think this is another big innovation for our industry, right up there with luxury seating.”

The app is currently being tested in a few theaters, but will spread to more cities this January. The concept is similar to that of the Starbucks app’s new ordering feature, where customers can order their food and beverage and pick it up at the indicated pick-up station.

The goal of the app is to eliminate the “popcorn pinch point,” a term used by some theater owners to describe the lines at movie theater concession stands. Whether we’re familiar with this term or not, we all know what it’s like to wait impatiently in line for food.

Food and beverage sales for movie theaters provide profit margins of 85 percent or higher, according to Leo Kulp, an exhibition industry analyst with RBC Capital Markets. And while theaters are expanding their concession options, polls show that one-third of movie-goers do not buy anything to eat or drink. The theaters involved hope to increase profits by eliminating the concession wait time.


“People simply do not like to wait in line,” Mr. McDonald said.