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Yo stop at that deli, the theater's overpriced!
You've got the backpack, gonna pack it up nice!
Don't want security to get suspicious
Mr. Pibb and Red Vines equals Crazy Delicious!
The Lonely Island, "Lazy Sunday"

There are many places in this world where you just can't take certain things, often to ensure safety for all involved. Weapons, spray paint, or street shoes can be banned from sports arenas for good reason. Food and water, however, are banned not for safety reasons, but rather for profit margins. The exact same can of soda that costs less than a dollar from the vending machine a block away from the stadium inexplicably costs 3 dollars from a vendor inside. This leads to people either complaining or smuggling contraband food into these secure areas.

Known to happen in Real Life. Compare and contrast with Sickbed Smuggling, which involves sneaking in random, forbidden items, including food, to a hospitalized person.


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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Scary Movie shows Brenda bringing in a picnic-basket loaded with food such as barbecued chicken to eat during the movie, in addition to treating the theater otherwise as her own private hangout.
  • The intro to Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over takes a jab at the price of theater concessions.
    Floop: Now, if your eyes get tired during the 3D section of the movie, take off your glasses, rush out to the concession stand, purchase an extra large popcorn, an extra large soda, come back to your seat, put your glasses back on and voilà! You just spent 35 dollars!

  • A movie theater was robbed for $500. The thieves took two chocolate bars and a medium popcorn.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dee takes Charlie out to get him out of the bar, and decides to take him to the movies, but wants to finish eating his plate of spaghetti first. He ends up making her stuff her bag with his spaghetti, which he eats out of.
  • Seinfeld:
    • The owner of Monk's Cafe forbids anyone to bring in their own condiments, in response to Jerry bringing in his own maple syrup for the pancakes he ordered. This wasn't saving him any money, he was simply being a Control Freak.
    • In another episode, Kramer tries to sneak a cafe latte into the theater in his shirt, because he complains the drinks are overpriced. It doesn't end well.
  • Northern Exposure shows Maggie managing a movie-theater, and making a fuss about someone bringing in their own popcorn. It turns out that they were only doing it because the theater's popcorn had made people sick the night before.
  • The Benny Hill Show has a sketch where Benny and another bloke brown bag it at a restaurant, only asking for drinks. The waitress says, "Hey, you can't eat your own food in here!" So the two guys switch lunches.
  • Best Foot Forward has a plotline (based on Josh Sundquist's story of his own experience) in which the protagonist, an amputee, sneaks a 2-liter bottle of soda into a movie theater in his empty pants leg resulting in a Soda Can Shakeup.
  • In a teaser at the start of a typical Law & Order episode, a family is being shown around their room in a luxury hotel. When the little boy shows everyone the Coca-Cola can he found in the minibar, the bellhop politely informs the parents they'll be billed $3.50 for it (at the time, soda in most vending machines ran around 50¢/can.)


    Newspaper Comics 
  • Curtis has a running gag where Curtis sneaks his own food into the theater every time he and Barry go to see a movie. Every time, his meal is larger and more elaborate than the last.
  • Foxtrot: Several strips have Peter working at the local movie theater in the summer that very much practices this trop. Among other things, he finds his paycheck won't even buy him two boxes of Milk Duds.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock: The vending machine inside the Fleet Hall theater only sells snack items - at 40 times their cost outside.
    • Apparently a callback to System Shock, which BioShock is a Spiritual Successor to: in System Shock 2, the snack replicator in the movie theater similarly has absurdly inflated prices, 100 times the normal value of these basic snacks. And the prices get even higher if you hack the machine, which would normally lower prices on other replicators.
  • Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: In the Teen Girl Squad minigame in "Homestar Ruiner", the highest-scoring death you can give The Ugly One involves her trying to smuggle a candy bar "past concession stand security" and being Guess-What-VOIP!ed by a cyborg penguin.

    Web Animation 
  • Referenced in the BlurB! version of the Happy Tree Friends episode "Keepin' It Reel" when Mime mimes eating popcorn, complete with crunching noises.
    Mimes cost the theater companies millions of dollars in lost revenue due to sneaking in snacks.
    They're impossible to stop.
  • Homestar Runner: In the Strong Bad Email "the movies", one of Strong Bad's many annoyances with movie theaters are people who sneak in meals and loudly eat during the movie.
    Strong Bad: And if you think the guy sitting next to you munching popcorn is bad, try going to a theater where people regularly sneak in their own all-you-can-eat fajitas!
    [Cut to the King of Town, who's not only eating fajitas, but has a mariachi band playing behind him.]
    The King of Town: What?! This was all in my box of Milk Duds.
  • pantsahat: In "They Should've BANNED me from the Movies Sooner", Tahu smuggles in a whole rotisserie chicken in his coat pocket, keeps a microwave under the theater seats, and has a mini-fridge in the ventilation system. He then pulls out a whole tray stacked with food from under his coat, and hands it to Turskit, causing her to get banned from the theater. And it turns out he doesn't even eat all the food, he sells it from the bathroom.

    Web Comics 
  • Concession: Naturally, being a webcomic initially about the staff of a theater concessions stand. On one page the manager stops a customer trying to sneak in a can of soda, and then three off-duty employees come in to see a movie carrying large grocery bags of food and he lets them pass, along with one employee's sister who doesn't work there.

    Web Original 
  • The Onion suggests this has been going on for millennia in an article about a concession stand at the Colosseum that charged 10 denarii for a small cup of winenote 

    Western Animation 
  • Rocko's Modern Life - Heffer is stopped by a metal-detector when trying to enter a movie theater, and is then frisked by a security guard. When he finds a candy bar on Heffer, Heffer laments, "I'm so ashamed!"
  • The Simpsons
    • In a flashback scene in "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge" with Otto at Woodstock 1999, he's actively on fire and goes to a kiosk for some water to put it out. The clerk tries to sell him a small bottle for $8. He says, "Screw that!" and walks away, still on fire.
    • When entering a science exhibit in "Smart and Smarter", Comic Book Guy is asked to step out of line because his clothes are obviously concealing a large amount of outside concessions. Lisa, having run away from home, snags some of the confiscated food as her meal.
      Comic Book Guy: Search all you want. You'll never find it all. I'm baking muffins as we speak.
  • The Boondocks shows Granddad makes a big fuss about concession when they all sneak into the movie theater to see Soul Plane 2. Granddad has Huey, Riley, and Jazmine sneak in snacks from home. He realizes he forgot the popcorn, gets an overpriced bag from the theater, and throws a childish tantrum over having to pour butter over it himself (the dispenser clearly hadn't been cleaned in a long time).
  • Family Guy: The family sneaks not only their own popcorn, candy, and drinks into a movie, but a laptop computer on which they watch Braveheart.
  • The Patrick Star Show: In "Movie Stars", SpongeBob and Patrick gets jobs at the movie theater and are tasked to prevent people from sneaking in food. Patrick catches his dad trying to sneak in an entire Thanksgiving feast. Later on, SpongeBob is supposed to charge Bubble Bass for a napkin.

    Real Life 
  • During the London 2012 Olympics, where inside the "Olympic Zone", British people were enraged to find the only permissible "food" was McDonalds and the only permissible drink was Coca-Cola. People entering the Olympic zone were searched and told to surrender non-approved foodstuffs, and those who refused or told the food police where to get off could be, and were, arrested. This even applied in the run-up to the games, where contractors were infuriated to find the canteen could not sell chips (French fries) because McDonalds had vetoed it. As chips are a staple British foodstuff, there were unseemly scenes, a lot of aggression was expressed. McDonalds, in this instance, were forced to climb down. Satirical magazine Private Eye caught the mood with a cover showing heavily armed policemen blocking the way to the stadium, with a speech bubble saying "Put down the can of Pepsi and nobody gets hurt". The British Facebook pages for McDonalds and Coca-Cola were heavily bombed with critical comment in the run-up and during the Olympics.
  • Zigzagged with drive-in theaters. While some don't allow outside food, others allow a customer to purchase a permit that lets them bring their own food; the cost of said permit makes up for lost concession stand revenue.
  • A lot of American clubs underwent a pretty twisty version during Prohibition. Per Raymond Chandler:
    "I remember that in one night club in Culver City, a town near Los Angeles where the Metro Goldwyn Studios are situated, two policemen were always on duty – not to keep you from getting liquor, but to keep you from bringing your own instead of buying it from the house."