Beer Poll: Is Serving Beer at Movie Theaters a Good Thing or a Bad Idea?

Courtesy of Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Courtesy of Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Beer being served at movie theaters isn’t exactly a new thing.  AMC has had their Dine-In Theatres (complete with waitstaff that deliver beer or wine to your seat) for a while now, and most metro areas have one or two independent movie houses that offer a selection of tasty craft beers to enjoy while watching the show.  And, of course, enterprising hooligans have been sneaking beer into theaters since before a whooshing subway car was lifting Marilyn Monroe’s skirt.

Although I’ve never visited a theater that mixes beer and movies, I’ve always thought it was a good idea – I enjoy the two together at home all the time, why not do the same in the theater?  That said, recent news reports out of Pittsburgh have me rethinking where I stand on beer in theaters, more specifically family friendly multiplex theaters. 

Big Phoenix Cinemas, a theater chain that has locations across the country, has started offering beer and wine at the concession stand in some of their theaters in the Steel City’s metro area, and the local news is all over it. While some people think it’s a fine idea to sell macro-lagers at the multiplex, others balk at the notion.

“I don’t really like the idea,” said April Crawford when interviewed by KDKA CBS Pittsburgh, “it’s supposed to be a family oriented thing.”  Sonya James echoed these remarks, saying “It’s a family place. You don’t want to sell alcohol there.”

I was surprised when I found myself agreeing with these two teetotaling theater goers.  I have little kids, and while it’s cool to see craft beer being sold at adult-oriented indie cinema houses, it’s a little unsettling to think that people might be getting sloppy at a matinée of The LEGO Movie.

Compounding my anxiety is the recent incident in Florida, where a retired police captain shot and killed a man who was texting the babysitter to check in on his sick daughter before a showing of Lone Survivor.  Some people are barely able to control themselves in public when they are stone sober, adding alcohol into the mix will surely only make things worse.

Now you might be thinking I’m a snob, saying it’s okay if craft beers are served to adult hipsters at fancy theaters, while it’s not alright to serve Coors Light to the unwashed masses down at the strip mall multiplex.  And you may be right, but the difference is my kids aren’t going to be at the fancy adult-oriented theater.

I know beer is served at family restaurants and amusement parks, but those aren’t places where folks are locked into having a shared experience. If someone’s drunk at dinner, they’re mostly terrifying their poor family – people two booths over are unaffected.  If someone is disruptive or lulled into a heightened state of selfishness in a movie theater, most everyone suffers.  I don’t want my family to be part of that.

So those are my thoughts – what about you?  Please check out the poll below and let us know where you stand on the idea of beer being served in theaters.  You can also hit up the comment section and let us know the reasons behind your vote.  Am I being a big baby, or just a smart dad?

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Categories: Beer, Lifestyle, Poll

Author:Jim

Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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38 Comments on “Beer Poll: Is Serving Beer at Movie Theaters a Good Thing or a Bad Idea?”

  1. January 24, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    Duh. I used to go to the art house theater across the street from my college all the time. They served pints of craft beer and this probably hooked me on indie films more than the films themselves. Also, I had to sit through Frozen sober. No one should have to do that.

    • January 24, 2014 at 11:02 am #

      I don’t think I thought it all the way through. They should have a beer lounge at the back of the theater for dads who have to take their daughters to Disney flicks!!

      • January 24, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

        Or they should just have beer at every movie ever.

        • January 24, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

          Yes, then everyone could take a “Swingers” nap.

        • January 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

          Yes, a Swingers nap is what it will be known as from this point forward. Who has an Urban Dictionary account?

    • January 24, 2014 at 11:25 am #

      I always had to sneak beer into the indie movie house when I was in college. I think that was a far more authentic experience. [is actually jealous]

      • January 24, 2014 at 11:30 am #

        I think I’d prefer pints to warm bottles as well.

      • January 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

        I remember dropping my empty pint glass as I nodded off during Swingers. #hipsteroneupsmanship

        • January 24, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

          In other non-hipster settings, I believe that’s called “passing out.” :)

          >

        • January 24, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

          Except that I quickly recovered and saw the end of the film when the shattering glass woke me.

        • January 24, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

          Well if they only allow plastic bottles in regular theaters, you should be able to sleep soundly through The LEGO Movie.

        • January 24, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

          I kinda want to see that one.

        • January 24, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

          Me too – I was a LEGO kid, and my daughter asked to go see it. I immediately said “YES!” and my wife just shook her head.

        • January 24, 2014 at 2:22 pm #

          My college friends and I intentionally knocked over our empties as the Death Star blew up during a screening of Star Wars.
          #obnoxiousgeekoneupsmanship

  2. Steve
    January 24, 2014 at 11:03 am #

    I think it would be appropriate to serve alcohol at movies, as long as they are sold by trained servers and behavior in the theaters is policed (preferably better than currently). I get annoyed with people in theaters already, without alcohol, which is my only hesitation. However, the people who are going out to get drunk and be obnoxious are not going to spend the money to sit through the LEGO movie, much less purchase overpriced beers at a movie theater. With popcorn costing upwards of $13/bag, you can be sure to be spending at least $10 for a little 12 oz (or less) cup of Bud Light. They’d probably offer a bigger size (like 16 oz) for $20.

    • January 24, 2014 at 11:05 am #

      I think this breaks down at “trained servers” and good policing. All the theaters I’ve been to are manned by teenagers who mostly don’t want to be there. I can’t see them giving a damn about over-serving someone. They’re probably more interested in sampling the merchandise…

  3. January 24, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    There’s new franchise in Austin that’s in the process of opening up more theaters in the US called Flix Brewhouse. They are a theater with great food and a brewery. They don’t do a lot of kid oriented movies though because historically they don’t do as well but they do special “pajama party” movies and special kids movies from time to time. So far I’ve never seen anyone acting like an idiot and we’re pretty regular visitors. Besides, as Zac mentioned no one should have to sit through some kid movies sober…we saw Epic at a “normal” theater and while, it wasn’t a BAD movie, it would have been made better with beer. I think that might be why I liked Rise of the Guardians so much. ;) Keep an eye out for Alamo Drafthouse too. Good food, good beer, and movies.

    • January 24, 2014 at 11:22 am #

      They just opened an Alamo Drafthouse here in Denver and I don’t think I can ever go back to another theater. Great food and craft beer, coupled with state of the art projection and sound and a no-tolerance policy for talking or texting is hard to beat! They also only allow small children in at specific times, so that takes care of the “family values” crowd.

      • January 24, 2014 at 11:28 am #

        Love that policy, especially because it birthed this little gem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L3eeC2lJZs

        • January 24, 2014 at 11:43 am #

          I like this one too. Walkers eat Talkers: http://vimeo.com/49417248

        • January 24, 2014 at 11:48 am #

          WOW! That’s hilarious and disturbing. I can’t stop laughing for some reason.

      • January 24, 2014 at 11:41 am #

        Flix has the same policy, for obvious reasons. Although I have to admit to getting warned at Alamo once during an Office Space night because we were quoting along a little too loudly. ;)

        • January 24, 2014 at 11:49 am #

          “But I was QUOTING!!!”

    • January 24, 2014 at 11:27 am #

      With a name like Flix Brewhouse, you know what you’re getting when you walk through the door, which is cool with me (Alamo Drafthouse as well).

      I’m more comfortable taking my kids to a beer-themed theater than a regular theater that sells beer because everyone is on the same page, and hopefully the beer will be celebrated and respected (and served with something more substantial than popcorn and Milk Duds), and not guzzled down by people who are loudly drunk dialing their ex’s. For some reason I see chances of this happening as being greater at a regular theater. Dunno why.

      • January 24, 2014 at 11:39 am #

        Yeah, I can’t imagine going to our less than stellar Cinemark and being in a theater with people there guzzling beer out of plastic cups and trying to talk over the movie. Not to mention I’m sure the place would smell like stale beer 90% of the time. Thankfully so far none of our “normal” theaters sell beer and with the weird liquor laws that Texas has I don’t foresee that happening.

        • January 24, 2014 at 11:50 am #

          I didn’t think of the smell – I’d bet that normal theaters aren’t prepared for keeping up with that!

  4. January 24, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    One thing to remember is that in the typical theater you buy all your concessions before the movie starts. That practically limits folks to one or two beers for the duration of the movie, and one or two macro-lagers (even large ones) aren’t likely to induce particularly bad behavior in most folks.

    Your points about family restaurants and amusement parks not being a shared experience is well taken, but I’d submit that a closer analog would be beer in ballparks. That is a shared experience, and while alcohol can and does certainly get out of hand in those settings, you also have the opportunity to drink constantly until the seventh inning, or whatever similar cutoff point a sport may call for. I think the natural reluctance to refill during a movie would prevent the vast majority of shenanigans that we see from sports fans, and even those aren’t frequent or unpleasant enough to cause a serious call for curbing beer sales at sporting events.

    • January 24, 2014 at 11:34 am #

      I don’t think there’s a cutoff policy at the theaters save for someone who’s obviously drunk, and if there’s one thing that can get a guy off his ass, it’s to get another beer. :)

      That said, I don’t think you’d see the same sorts of behavior as you see at ballgames, mostly because there’s less tailgating before movies.

  5. PDX Tim
    January 24, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    I’m in Portland, OR and I’ve been going to movies that serve beer in them for about 20 years now. The McMenamin’s brother’s local franchise have about a half dozen properties where you can order their burgers and beer in and sit down in old funky chairs or sofas to watch the movie. I have NEVER seen anyone get out of control or be a nuisance while in them. I find going to a regular theater is much more painful with kids talking or kicking the back of your chair or teenagers talking loudly and being “teenagers” than these theaters. However, all of them around Portland are 21+ and that’s how it should be. However, if I had to go see a movie such as Smurfs 2, I would not only want some beer, but a few shots of bourbon as well to make it less painful… Come to Portland and visit a McMenamin’s theater, Cinetopia, Livingroom Theater, or an independent such as Academy Theater or Laurelhurst Theater. Not only do some of them offer beer, pizza, wine, or full menus, but you can see a movie for $3 bucks.

    • January 24, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

      I love Portland, and this is why.

  6. Bill
    January 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

    Ah, the family oriented argument. Chuck E Cheese sells beer and wine here, though limit of one.

    • January 24, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

      They should sell tranquilizers for all…

  7. January 24, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

    When anyone suggests selling alcoholic beverages at a public venue, race tracks and soccer games always come to the front of my mind. Yes, most people would be responsible, but it only takes a couple of rotters to throw the whole thing into disrepute. Imagine if some Tweeter decides to use social media to call an impromptu event at the theater (as has been done with some retail establishments of late) it could be a real disaster. So I, reluctantly, voted no to to your question.

    • January 24, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

      Better kept to adult-oriented venues I think. If a bunch of rowdy jerks need to be thrown out of a theater full of grown ups, no worries. I just don’t want my kids tangled up in that mess.

      >

  8. January 27, 2014 at 6:21 am #

    I think that serving alcohol at a dinner date theatre is definitely ok, however, sometimes people don’t know how to act in the theatres as it is, and there may need to be some limitations.

  9. Jenna Matzer
    January 29, 2014 at 10:35 am #

    It’s definitely appropriate. I’m a recent first timer as I just attended my first alcohol-friendly theater just a few weeks ago. Personally, I go to the movies for the butter-rich popcorn and pop, so in most cases I wouldn’t purchase alcohol. Plus I’m cheap and, let’s be honest, a $5 beer at the bar will cost you $11 at the theater.

  10. February 11, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    Without an intermission in the movies and the tailgating beforehand it would seem less likely that there would be many people out of hand, but I have never been to a theater that sells alcohol so I’m really not sure. It is something I wouldn’t mind trying though!

  11. February 12, 2014 at 11:03 pm #

    My favorite movie theatre is Hollywood Boulevard Theatre in Woodridge, IL and they serve food, beer, and VERY strong cocktails. It’s very popular with adults and children alike. Their tickets are cheaper than their competitors at AMC and Lowes theatres because they make up the profits in food sales. I’ve never had a bad experience there, and it’s very family friendly.

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