Sinking your teeth into fiery buffalo wings or licking the cheese residue from beefy nachos while watching the latest blockbuster in cinemas is not novel to American culture.
When it comes to American movie theatre concession menu items, it’s go big or stay home. Since the early 1900s the American movie menu has evolved from popcorn and candy to heavier foods like nachos, pizza, hotdogs, wings and even burgers.
The fun doesn't just end with meals — alcoholic beverages are also on the menu and are typically consumed right in front of the big screen. In popular chain theatres like AMC, Cinemark and Regal Entertainment Group, dining-in has become the norm.
The UK concession menu also consists of a wide range of dinners, desserts and alcoholic beverages at popular cinema chains such as the Odeon. Similar to the American cultural norm, movie goers consume any drink or meal during the film instead of before or after it.
However, French movie etiquette does not operate in the same way for multiple reasons.
Unlike the US, the French cinema market is not dominated by large chains. France offers a variety of theatres that range from small and local to large mainstream chains such as UGC. Smaller theatres usually have a more niche and simple concession menu.
Although some smaller theatres still offer alcoholic beverages, it is still rare to see someone drinking a huge pint of beer while watching a film. It is a French cultural custom to drink alcohol before or after movies and generally not in large quantities.
Larger chain theatres in France such as UGC mirror popular American chains, in terms of offering heavier meals and alcoholic beverages. However, it is not common for French movie goers to eat and drink excessively during movies. The sound of chomping, slurping and rumbling bags can be distracting for other viewers and it is seen as a sign of respect to remain extremely quiet during films.
Additionally, French cinemas typically do not have the stubborn, “no outside food or drink rule,” like in the US which derived from Great Depression to keep theatres afloat. French movie goers are usually allowed to bring their own snacks and beverages into theatres, although the practice is still uncommon.
In general, the French just eat less than the American norm. They follow the idea that there is a time and a place for everything and they value quality over quantity.
While you might see an American eating at the movies, during class, on public transportation or even simply walking down the street, it is rare to see someone French doing the same. The French strictly eat in settings and during times solely designated for eating. The American lifestyle is less uniform and is known for its love of excess, which is why it is no surprise that the big screen and big meals go hand in hand in the US.
French movie theatre etiquette reflects the general cultural practices of the French and the same can be said for Americans. So if you're visiting France hoping to see a good movie for the very first time, guzzling down some beer or going to town on a plate of nachos during the film might not be the best idea. However, a simple popcorn and water will do the trick.
Lost in Frenchlation screen new French films at cinemas in Paris with English subtitles. To see their upcoming events, visit their website here.