Why would anyone in their right mind pay $20 for a small box of candy and a few kernels fake-butter popcorn after paying a million dollars a ticket to go to a movie–that starts with a half-hour of commercials? 

That’s insane. Theatre food isn’t what I want anyway–a coffee, hummus with veggies. So, I smuggle my food in. You should, too. Once in a while, you’ve got to break the rules. 

Benefits of smuggling food

This is a no-brainer. No one wants to choose between a movie and a car payment. Most times, the food at the theatre costs more than the movie itself. You’ll save a ton, be healthier, and enjoy your movie experience more if you have the foods you like. For many of us, food smuggling makes the difference as to whether a night out at the movies is financially possible at all.

But, it’s not only the frugal who should take to smuggling. I don’t eat movie theater food. Nor do many people who have to eat intentionally or for a specific medical diet. So, whether you’re gluten free, keto, diabetic, have food allergies, or are just plain frugal… you want to be included and happy, too. 

How to get your food into the movie theater

Since movie theaters have a “no outside food” rule, smuggling can be a challenge at some theaters. It’s especially difficult if you have a kid that knows the rules. 

“Mom, you’re lying.”  

“No. I’m not. He’s not going to ask me and I’m not going to say anything.” 

“That’s dishonest.” Lies are lies. And this is one. Best to avoid the subject. Get your snacks ahead of time, and let them magically appear once you’re seated. Bring no attention to the bulge in the bag. 

Tips for smuggling

My strategy? Go to the worker who wants to help you most or the worker who looks like they’d rather be texting. For me, I find a teen.I like teens–they’re my people. Teens empathize with me, since I teach them. They want to help me out. No teen is going to search a bag unless it’s that kid who always wanted to be hall monitor growing up. You can see them a mile away. Don’t go to them. 

Once in a while, you get the adult semi-manager who has never had an ounce of authority in life except now, to enforce the cinema rules. Stay away from that person. This is  Mall Cop’s cousin–a person who takes security detail way too seriously. “Liability…” this and “Health code…” that… 

As long as you go to through the helpful teen’s line, your food is safe.


This is easy for moms and female teachers. People are less likely to search a mom with an overactive kid. Moms tend to have big bags. Nothing looks odd about that. For men, it’s a little more challenging, Although men don’t carry beach bags or totes, there are man bags that are becoming popular. If you don’t have a man bag, and you have too much food for a fanny pack, you might try a computer bag or messenger bag. 

What to bring?

You can stop off at your favorite drug store for a pound of candy, or you can go with homemade snacks that won’t break the bank. I bring hummus and veggies, but the rest of the family gets to choose a treat they love. 

How much can you save?

Depends. If you spend all your savings on junk food, you didn’t do your body or your budget any good. I keep a stash of these things around that I get on sale, then I don’t have to worry about everyone whining in the snack aisle or announcing to the theater staff that I brought my own candy. 

Have fun, be reasonable, and if you don’t like the theater food, bring your own! 



Photo credit: Lynda Sanchez on Unsplash