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Cineplex VIP patrons pay more for popcorn, get less

Movie theatre chain implements changes to proper sizes after discrepancy was noticed.

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Cineplex VIP Popcorn:

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It’s Nov. 4, which for Cineplex Scene loyalty program members is D-Day. As of today, the value of Scene points goes down dramatically as the requirements for premium movie tickets goes up. A VIP ticket, for example, now requires 2,000 points rather than the previous 1,000.

It turns out that VIP movie goers have been getting skimped in another way. For the past few months, they’ve also been paying more money for popcorn than patrons at Cineplex’s regular theatres – and getting less of it.

Cineplex recently changed its VIP popcorn receptacles to the classic square-ish cardboard form, from the paper bags that are still used in regular cinemas.

A large VIP popcorn in the classy cardboard costs $7.25 and delivers about 16 cups of popped corn. Here’s one filled with Chicago Mix:

popcorn, cineplex

A large popcorn in a regular Cineplex theatre costs $6.70, or 55 cents less, yet has delivered about 25 per cent more popcorn – approximately 20 cups.

Here’s a large bag with the VIP box poured into it:

popcorn, cineplex

A higher price in VIP, which is billed as a classier experience, might be understandable. But serving customers considerably less popcorn than regular patrons – especially when they were previously getting the same amount – looked like nothing more than a cash grab.

Pat Marshall, vice-president of communications and investor relations for Cineplex, said in an email reply on Tuesday that the switch to the cardboard containers was made to accommodate staff in VIP cinemas. The containers are more stable and easier to carry for the wait staff who provide in-seat service.

Marshall says the size discrepancy was an error:

“Our plan was always to continue offering three sizes of popcorn in our VIP cinemas but due to a communications error at the theatre level, we’ve come to realize that only the two smaller sizes were actually in use. The larger bag size should have been used all along and is not reflective of a size or price change. Know that since we received your email, we’ve already made arrangements to have the large size in place this evening at all of our VIP cinemas across Canada.”

You have to hand it to Cineplex for such a speedy fix to the issue. Getting those larger VIP receptacles out to all the theatres for use the same day that a journalist inquired about the discrepancies indicates some pretty impressive logistics. Either that or they were sitting around unused the whole time.

When asked about restitution for months of overcharging, Marshall said Cineplex will make good: “Anyone who purchased a large popcorn at our VIP cinemas during this period can receive a complimentary replacement popcorn from us at our VIP cinemas as long as they have proof of the initial purchase.”

That’s a generous offer that will come in handy to the large number of people who obviously save all of their popcorn receipts.

Cineplex also shrank the size of some drink cups earlier this year but kept prices the same. The company initially said the change was in response to upcoming health legislation, but later admitted it was a simple price increase.

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