Find us on Facebook

alcohol health alliance uk

Drinking in a cinema near you

Posted 06/08/13

Cinemas across the North East are allowing people to drink more than the equivalent of their weekly recommended units while watching the screening of family films and selling alcohol for less than the price of popcorn – at the expense of the wellbeing of children and young people.

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, carried out a number of test purchases in cinemas across the region and found that in some chains, people were able to buy six pints at a time and take them into an early afternoon screening of Despicable Me 2 (U) – and they were also advised that they could purchase more during the film.

On another occasion, test purchasers were able to buy five pints of lager (5.1%) and take the drinks into a mid-afternoon screening of Monsters University (U). This equates to 14.5 units, which is more than the recommended weekly limit of 14 units for a woman.

Research into cinemas across all 12 local authorities also showed that the majority of cinemas visited have bars – and in some chains, alcohol is clearly displayed and can be purchased at the popcorn counter next to sweets, soft drinks and other refreshments.

In the majority of cinemas visited the price of alcohol was also less than the price of a large carton of popcorn. A pint of lager could be purchased for between £3.30 and £3.60, whilst a large carton of popcorn cost between £3.00 and £4.99.

Sue Taylor, Partnership Manager at Balance, said: “It’s completely irresponsible that people are able to purchase this amount of alcohol to drink in films which are predominantly watched by young children and families. It begs the questions why this is allowed to happen – it certainly isn’t in the interest and wellbeing of the families on a trip to their local cinema.

“After six pints of lager an individual would certainly be intoxicated and the potential for being disruptive, swearing or other inappropriate behaviour would increase. It’s not an appropriate environment for children and I’m sure parents will feel it isn’t worth the risk. There is also the danger of alcohol being supplied to minors – it’s very dark in the screenings and no one asked our test purchasers who the alcohol was for or monitored consumption within the cinema screen.

“Organisations such as Balance are sometimes accused of trying to restrict personal freedoms. However, it is the freedom of parents and young children that we should be concerned about. Cinemas used to be a place where children and families could go without being bombarded by alcohol marketing or able to buy alcohol. This is no longer the case.

“Widespread availability, as well as pocket money prices and heavy marketing, have established drinking as a social norm and it is having a harmful effect. We already suffer at the hands of alcohol in this region, with the highest rate of under-18s in alcohol treatment, and the highest proportion of school pupils having tried alcohol, according to a recent national survey.

“Cinemas need to take more responsibility and tighter regulations need to be introduced to ensure we don’t continue this trend and send the message to our children that alcohol should be a central part of our every-day lives.”

Kevan Martin, who previously had an addiction and is now Chief Executive Officer at the Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction Foundation (NERAF) believes the availability of alcohol is a huge issue and has a strong influence on young people and drinking.

He said: “At NERAF we work with people who have been affected by alcohol misuse and many of them have had problems with alcohol from a young age.

“I just can’t see the logic in selling alcohol at the cinema, and especially allowing people to drink in front of children and young people at a family film. It is sad that we live in a society where we are constantly surrounded by alcohol – it can’t be setting a good example to younger generations.

“For a lot of the people we see at NERAF, alcohol was just a part of everyday life when they were young. It was normal to be around alcohol. They saw their parents drinking, more people started drinking at home and quite significantly, there were external influences as alcohol became increasingly available.

“The availability of alcohol is a major issue - it’s now virtually impossible to go anywhere without alcohol being sold or marketed in some way. With alcohol now available in cinemas, service stations and a growing number of other off licence locations, our problems with alcohol misuse will only get worse.”