I last year wrote about Vue Cinemas and its interesting perception of the ‘value’ bit in ‘value meal’. Vue wasn’t (and isn’t) alone in gouging customers, matching ever-increasing ticket prices with astonishingly marked up snacks and drinks. At our local Vue, the cost of a drink and popcorn ‘meal’ is about the same as a ticket; worse, it’s about the same as a proper meal at one of the many nearby restaurants.

On the BBC today, in an article about surprising charges, Vue makes a suitably surprising statement:

Vue Cinemas, where a regular popcorn and soft drink costs £8.25, say food and drink is an optional extra and customers are free to take their own snacks in.

On Twitter, @immobiliser than asked the official Vue account if this statement was correct:

Are we indeed free to take in our own supplies for a film?

Vue’s response:

It is indeed within reason. We don’t allow hot or smelly food, so leave your tuna sandwiches at home 😀

If this is the case, great. No hot/smelly food is a perfectly reasonable restriction, but there’s an ‘if’ here, summed up nicely by Andy White’s comments to me, also on Twitter:

Didn’t work for us! Our [k]ids are coeliacs and we tried taking in special food for them – were told no entry unless binned!

He stated this happened at Vue’s fairly new Camberley branch, and his family were “pretty upset about it at the time”. Elsewhere, Stuart Alexander Arnott said to me on Facebook that a BBC report found cinema terms and conditions effectively enable staff to block you taking in your own food whenever they like. His reading of the rules:

I think the cinemas don’t enforce it much, but they’re happy that people think you’re not allowed (according to the show 67% of people think this).

I’ve asked Vue for clarification on its recent statement, asking whether this is company policy or down to each individual cinema, and I will update this post should I get a response.

UPDATE: No response directly from Vue as yet, but the company responded to White on Twitter and since sent an email, which he forwarded to me. It notes high prices are the result of a need to have a viable business model, since much box office money goes to distributors; however, it importantly confirms:

Please note that you are able to bring your own food and drink into the cinema rather than purchasing from our confectionary stands. This is with the exception of hot food or alcohol.