I am fascinated by the psychology of movie theater soda sales. At the core of the issue is one single, indisputable fact: movie theaters want you to pay as much as possible for your soda. I don’t mean “they want you to pay as much as possible per ounce,” oh no, I mean they want the total sum of moolah you fork over to be as great as possible. Because, frankly, they don’t give a flying yodel how much soda you receive in return for your cash. These guys pay, like, thirteen cents per cubic kilometer of soda syrup, and they could probably give it away for free and still make a profit. It’s of little concern to them whether you get 8 oz. or 128 oz., as long as your total expenditure is as large as possible.
So a crack team of movie theater psychologists figured out the absolute maximum amount of money an average person will pay for soda, an amount that is currently somewhere around $6.00 or so. Then they figured out how much soda the person would have to receive in return for this outlay to feel like they had made a justifiable purchase, and that worked out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 52 ounces. And with that they established their “Jumbo” — 52 oz. of soda for six bucks.
Of course nobody in their right mind would actually desire 52 oz. of soda without some sort of coercion, so here’s what they did. The made the “Large” 32 oz, and priced it at $5.50, and made the Medium 24 oz. and priced it at $5.00, and made the “Small” 12 oz. and priced it at $4.50. So you’re standing there in line and you’re thinking “Jeeze, all I really want is 12 oz. of soda, but for only $1.50 more I can get the Jumbo which contains over four times the volume of the Small!! I’d be a complete mooncalf not to jump at that deal!”
Now I’ve noticed that some local theaters have taken the next step in this process by eliminating the “Small” altogether, and instead calling the 12 oz soda “Child” — never mind that no child should ever ingest 12 oz. of Surge in less than a fortnight. So if the phony economics don’t talk you out of buying the smallest drink, you will also have to overcome the shame of ordering yourself a “Child-size Mr. Pibb”. I think they should just run with this idea and rename all the sizes with derogatory names. Twelve oz. could be the “Asshole,” 24 oz. could be the “Dipshit”, 32 oz. could be the “Skinflint Pansyboy Who Can Only Drink 32 Oz. of Cola” and 52 oz. could be a “Large”. It’s gonna happen sooner or later, so they may as well get it over with.