Can I Bring Food into AMC Theaters? Other Theaters?

Since $20 no longer affords you a popcorn and soda at the movie theater, many people are interested in bringing their own food and beverages to the theater. At the same time, you don’t want to be turned away at the counter, or forced to throw away your outside food, because you are breaking theater policies.

Here, we will answer all of your questions about bringing outside food and drink into AMC, Cinemark, Regal, and other theaters. 

Continue reading, because there is a lot of inaccurate information on this topic floating around the internet.

Quick Answer: Can I Bring Food into AMC Theater? What About Other Theaters?

To make a complicated topic more simple, here is the quick answer – no, AMC theaters does not allow you to bring outside food or drink into the theater. Per AMC, “outside food and drinks are not allowed.”

The matter of whether or not you are permitted to bring food into an AMC theater is this simple. Next, people will ask whether or not they can bring in food. The answer is that it is technically possible to sneak food into a theater, although it is not recommended.

Further Discussion – Can a Theater Prevent You from Bringing in Outside Food?

There has been a lot of talk on social media and message boards about AMC (and other movie theater chains) not caring if you bring in outside food or drinks. There has even been discussion where people suggest that AMC cannot stop you from bringing outside food into the theater.

To begin, it is important to note that AMC, Regal, Cinemark, or any other theater can stop you from bringing in food. While it isn’t illegal for you to sneak food into a theater, the movie theater can absolutely deny you entry for breaking company policy.

Although some companies instruct their employees not to inspect purses and bags, you should remember that movie theater attendants have the right to check your purse/bag and deny you entry if you refuse the inspection (caveat here: I am not a licensed attorney!). This means that the best way to sneak in a drink or food is by carrying it on your person – for example, inside of your jacket or pants pocket.

Part of the reason this topic (outside food/drink in movie theaters) gets confusing is because there are a lot of movie theater attendants that just don’t care.

So, depending on the person who checks your ticket, you may be able to bring a steak dinner into the theater without being questioned. Many theater employees are teenagers, college students, or entry-level employees that aren’t entirely invested in protecting company policies.

Can I Bring a Water Bottle into a Movie Theater?

Another source of misinformation surrounds water bottles. Many people believe that water bottles are an exception to the “no outside food or drink” rule. 

This makes sense, because many events (sporting events, concerts, plays, etc.) permit a sealed water bottle even if all other outside food and drinks are prohibited.

Sadly, I am unaware of any large theater chains that actually make an exception for water bottles. Rather, water bottles fall within the “no outside food or drink” rule.

A caveat, though: many theater employees allow you to bring a water bottle into the theater, even though it isn’t technically allowed. It seems that many attendants feel that a water bottle is an appropriate item to bring to a movie, even if it is technically on the banned list.

This makes sense – would you want to kick a little old lady out of a movie theater because she dared to enter the premises with a 20 ounce bottle of Aquafina?

Manners, Etiquette, & Being a Good Neighbor

By now, we have answered the question, “Am I allowed to bring outside food into a movie theater?” – NO

And also, “Can I bring outside food into a movie theater?” – yes, by attempting to sneak it in.

But there is one final question that should be asked – “Should I bring outside food or drink into a movie theater?” The answer to this is dependent on a number of factors, and the answer will differ depending on who you ask.

First, an ethical discussion. Some people will say that sneaking in outside food is akin to stealing from the theater. By sneaking in a dollar store box of candy rather than paying $7 for the same box at the concession stand, you are “stealing” profits from the theater. The flip side, of course, is that other people point out that it is highway robbery to charge $7 for a stale box of Junior Mints!

Next, an economic discussion. Ticket prices are partially subsidized by the high prices at the concession stand. So, if everyone would stop buying concessions food and drinks, eventually the ticket prices at the box office would have to increase.

Finally, a discussion about being a good neighbor to other theater attendees. Generally, outside food brings a lot of inconvenience to your neighbors. 

Movie theater food and drinks are usually quiet when eaten and have minimal unpleasant odors. Nobody in the theater will be bothered by the smell of your popcorn, but your to-go container full of Chinese leftovers might be bothersome to the people in the seats next to you!

In addition to the smells and noise, bringing outside food often yields a lot of trash. If you are going to sneak food into the theater, at least have the decency to take your wrappers and trash to the trash can. 

What About Other Theater Chains?

Cinemark’s official outside food and drink policy is simple: “No outside food or drinks are allowed.” 

It should be noted here that Cinemark company policy prohibits employees from inspecting your bags as you enter the theater. So, of course you will be able to sneak food into a Cinemark theater if you hide it in a bag. One final note is that bags and packages larger than 12” x 12” x 6” are not allowed into the theater – this means you can’t order a pizza and walk right into the theater with it.

Regal’s policy on outside food is also simple and to-the-point: “No outside food or drink is permitted in the theatre.” One difference between Regal and Cinemark is that some Regal locations will inspect your bag or purse upon entry.

Marcus Theatres has a similarly concise policy: “No carry-in food and beverages.” I haven’t actually been inside a Marcus theater, so I am not certain as to their purse/bag inspection policy.

Final Thoughts

AMC, Regal, Cinemark, Marcus, and most other movie theaters have a policy that explicitly forbids outside food and drinks. This includes water bottles, as well.

You can often sneak a box of candy or can of soda into the theater without getting caught.

But if you do choose to circumvent the rules in this way, remember to be courteous of the other theater-goers. Avoid foul-smelling foods and loud crinkly packaging, and be sure to throw away all the trash that you produce throughout the course of the film.