Snack to the future

Popcorn's still king, but movie munchies are evolving to include yogurt, cocktails - even chocolate truffles


Fox Theatre

TIFF VENUE No

LICENSED Yes

The Alliance theatre further west on Queen East may be the bigger draw for east-enders trying to catch a new flick, but the one-room, 101-year-old Fox far outpaces the multiplex in authentic charm. There are a few modern touches here – specifically, a liquor licence, with six tasty local craft beers from the likes of Amsterdam and Mill Street available by the can ($6 to $8). Wine-drinkers can get a cab sauv or a pinot grigio for $7. For snacks there’s popcorn ($4.50 to $5.50) and candy ($3 to $4), also available in combos like the Terminator (a large pop and popcorn for $9.50) or the Foxtrot (large popcorn and beer or wine for $11).

BONUS FEATURE Some fun non-alcoholic drink options like Boylan’s bottled soda and Purity Organic lemonade. 

2236 Queen East, at Beech, 416-691-7330, foxtheatre.ca

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Natalia Manzocco

Royal Cinema

TIFF VENUE: No

LICENSED: Only for special events

With a schedule made up of indies, documentaries and second-run flicks, the Royal is a Toronto stronghold of film nerdery. The management keeps things cheap and cheerful at the snack counter: drinks are $2.75 to $3.75, popcorn is $3.25 to $4.75, and two of each (a “double meal”) will set you back $12.75. If you want something a little fancier than the real butter and sea salt they drizzle on, there’s complimentary white cheddar, dill pickle and ketchup powders – remember when every theatre had those? – available for the shaking. 

The theatre doesn’t usually do booze, but if you come by on the right night, you might get themed cocktails or tallboy cans of Mill Street beer courtesy of the Monarch Tavern. All that, and you get to watch Dude Bro Party Massacre III.

BONUS FEATURE: A tip jar with a photo of Nic Cage in The Wicker Man taped to it.

608 College, at Clinton, 416-466-4400, theroyal.to


Scotiabank Theatre

TIFF VENUE: Yes

LICENSED: Only in the lobby

With the Varsity hogging all the attention for their VIP screenings, Cineplex recently spruced up its megaplex on Richmond with a new lounge area that features “craft” beer (Labatt-approved, of course: Shock Top and Goose Island) and spike-able slushies. You can’t bring them into the movie, lamentably, but you can bring in blue-and-bacon burgers, chili dogs and pulled pork poutine, all available at a surprisingly reasonable price ($6 to $8). 

But the trad movie snacks are, of course, still a major price gouge: a combo with two large drinks, two large popcorn bags and a candy is $25.85. Compare that to $13.50 at the Royal. A helpful young employee behind the counter tells me they only leave the pre-scooped bags in the warmer for “an hour or two”.

BONUS FEATURE: One of those nifty Coca-Cola Freestyle machines that let you flavour your own soda. Vanilla cherry Coke? Don’t mind if I do.

259 Richmond West, at John, 416-368-5600, cineplex.com

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R. Jeanette Martin

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

TIFF VENUE: Yes

LICENSED: Yes

Paying $6.50 for a Forty Creek on the rocks, a Tanqueray and tonic, or a tall can of Naughty Neighbour ain’t half-bad by bar standards, but at a movie concession stand, it’s a bona fide steal. The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema isn’t out to gouge anyone – it’s owned by a non-profit, after all – so you can get seasonal wines or above-average rail drinks at its lobby booth for a song. Add popcorn for an $11.25 “booze combo.” 

The fluffy stuff is still $5 to $5.75 a bag, but you’re getting the good stuff: when the theatre was completely overhauled in 2012, the former owners made them promise to keep the original popcorn machine and recipe.

BONUS FEATURE: Vegan baked goods from Sweets from the Earth, gluten-free pretzels, seven flavours of Häagen-Dazs.

506 Bloor West, at Bathurst, 416-637-3123, bloorcinema.com

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Natalia Manzocco

Carlton Cinema

TIFF VENUE: No

LICENSED: Yes

Like its little sister, the more family-oriented Rainbow Market Square, this theatre on Carlton ain’t much to look at but delivers an old-school movie experience at a budget-friendly price. Where the Carlton really gets a leg up is at the licensed concessions counter, which offers a huge range of spirits ($5.75 to $6), from college party to classy, and three flavours of sugary convenience store-style slush to mix them with ($7.50), plus mass-market and craft beer ($6.25-$7), wine ($9.50) and cider ($7.50).

The remainder is pretty straight-up: there’s a case full of candy, fresh popcorn ($4.25 to $6.25), and sodas that you will, if you have any sense of fun in your life, ignore in favour of a frosted pina colada, “whiskey sour” or blue raspberry “vodka swirl.” Mmm-mm, trashy.

BONUS FEATURE: Little signs with magic marker drawings (fruit, chocolate bars, anthropomorphized teacups). They’re everywhere, and they’re adorable. 

20 Carlton, at Yonge, 416-598-5454, rainbowcinemas.ca


TIFF Lightbox

TIFF VENUE: Duh

LICENSED: Yes

Sure, the Lightbox has Luma and O&B Canteen on the premises, but when it comes to in-theatre eating, you’re stuck with the counter. As you might expect from a charitable organization that’s also a massive cultural and financial juggernaut, TIFF’s home base shows some push and pull between the indie and the corporate, even when it comes to snacks. 

Walk into the concession area, and you’ll see small-time Toronto – loose-leaf teas from Pluck, miniature tarts and big chewy cookies from Dufflet – juxtaposed with a glass cabinet full of pre-scooped popcorn (why?) and a plaque dubbing the area the Cineplex Lounge. That popcorn, at $7 for a large, is also some of the priciest in town – but hey, they have Chicago-style mix! 

The licensed theatre offers just three bottled beers ($7 to $7.25), but widens the range of available wines by the glass ($8 to $11) to five – a menu tailor-made for the Lightbox’s clientele of seasoned filmgoers queueing for Kurosawa retrospectives.

BONUS FEATURE: Fancy chocolate truffles in flavours like cappuccino and Irish cream a priority rush line for TIFF members.

350 King West, at John, 416-599-8433, tiff.net


Varsity Theatre

TIFF VENUE: No

LICENSED: Yes

Do you fancy yourself a connoisseur of the finer things in life? If so, you’ve likely already experienced the incredible luxury of ordering dinner and cocktails from inside a movie theatre. For a $20 movie ticket, you can watch the latest new releases inside the Varsity’s miniature VIP screening rooms and get drinks (big-name beer, sugary martinis, a dozen or so wines) and food (burgers, flatbread pizzas and charcuterie platters), priced on the higher side of normal, brought right to your seat. Some movie-theatre price gougery persists: $8 for edamame? You can also enjoy the same menu in the lounge area just outside the theatre. 

Beyond the luxe offerings, snacks follow the usual Cineplex formula, but the liquor licence extends to the other screening rooms as well, so you can buy a tallboy for $8 at the concession counter and just get the regular $12.99 movie ticket (you peon).

BONUS FEATURE: A fro-yo counter next to the popcorn – sure, it’s overpriced, but they have birthday cake flavour!

55 Bloor West, at Bay, 416-961-6304, cineplex.com

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