July 03, 2011

Why We Love AMC's Smart Movie Snacks

One of the shittier parts of going to the movies is the food at the theater. I'm not a big popcorn fan, and even if I was, I'm not crazy about paying upwards of four bucks for a bag of World's Cheapest Food. Nor am I a fan of the giant tubs of empty calories that movie theaters sell under the name Small Soda. Or technically Medium Soda, since they often don't have a small size. I do love hot dogs and nachos, but I hate paying a lot of money for it. Call me cheap, but if I'm shelling out six or seven bucks for nachos, they better be good and have plenty of cheese. I just hate those little cups of cheese that you have to ration out in order to ensure that every chip gets a little bit of cheese. There's nothing worse than running out of cheese towards the end and having to eat the chips plain. I could go on, but my point is this: Food at the movies sucks. And if you're at all health-conscious, you have even more reason to walk right past the concession stand.

We try not to waste any money at the concession stand. We sometimes sneak food into the theater and eat it while we're waiting for the trailers to start, but that's usually only if we don't have time to eat beforehand. And sometimes we do get a bag of popcorn, but that's really just if we're starving, which isn't an unusual occurrence when we're catching a double feature. But other than that, we avoid it like the plague.

The major chains have been catching a lot of shit lately for the giant calorie counts on the foods they serve. And rightfully so. Some theaters have started posting the calories for each item, and it's a sad sight. Those giant sodas are calorie bombs. Popcorn, turns out, is not as healthy as has been said in the past, and adding butter? Hot dogs, nachos, candy, ice cream, Icee slushies... how about serving something healthy?

In April, AMC Theatres introduced the AMC Smart MovieSnacks. And we're thrilled to tell you that they're damn good.

For $7, here's what you get:

-one bag of Chiquita Fruit Chips
-one bag of POPCorners Popped Corn Chips (Kettle)
-one Odwalla Trail Mix Bar
-and one 20oz. bottle of Dasani water

I'll start with the fruit chips. It's a 30gram bag of dried banana, pineapple and mango chips. It's delicious and at only 113 calories for the bag, guilt-free.

The popcorn chips (32g bag) are also really tasty. I like these much better than regular popcorn. They're light but very flavorful, and I love the slightly sweet kettle taste. And at just 140 calories, again, something you don't have to feel bad about downing while you're enjoying a flick.

The Odwalla Trail Mix Bar takes the bulk of the calorie count. It's probably the most filling item you'll find in the box, as it contains peanuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips and coconut chips. A little heavier on the chocolate chips than necessary, in my opinion, but still delicious. If you're still hungry after the two bags of chips, this will set you back 200 calories.

And finally, you get a 20 ounce bottle of Dasani as well, although you're allowed to substitute that for a 20oz Diet Coke or Coke Zero. Keep in mind that buying a Dasani alone costs $4, which makes this whole package a no-brainer.

Total calorie count: 453 calories.

While I wouldn't have one of these snack packs in lieu of dinner, it's perfectly fine to have instead of lunch. And if you're just in need of a snack and something to drink, it's way better than getting a giant Small Popcorn. You can have your drink, nibble away at the food, and take whatever's left back home with you. Perfect to share, too.

We can't rave enough about this bundle. It's delicious, healthy, and perfectly portioned. And you won't have that money-thrown-down-a-garbage-chute feeling that you can get from buying popcorn or soda tubs.

But before you rush to the theater and ask for the AMC Smart MovieSnacks, there's two things we need to point out:

-Good luck finding it. You'll see the posters advertising this healthy alternative plastered throughout the theater, but try buying one. We've asked for the Healthy MovieSnacks on six different occasions, at various AMC locations in New York City, and have walked away with the convenient and delicious box and bottle just twice so far. We've been told that they've run out or that they don't have them. On the two occasions that we were able to make the purchase, one time they were conveniently placed by the counter, but the other time, someone had to go to the back to get one. We also haven't ever seen anyone else in the theater sitting with the MovieSnacks box thus far - and trust us, we look at the people around us.

-and because of that, we can't help but question the motives behind this effort. Smart MovieSnacks, we think, is solely a PR move... it's a response to the negative buzz about how unhealthy movie theater foods are, and we won't be surprised if AMC theaters soon stops offering this product. And when Consumer Reports or your local evening news harps on theaters again for their unhealthy food offerings, all AMC needs to say is Hey, we tried, but nobody bought it.

At $7, is it too good to be true? Enjoy it while you can.

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