Much ado about noisy snacking at London theatres

London (AFP) –


A group of London theatres embroiled in a hot debate over audience snacking is adopting a novel approach: "scrunch testing".

Nimax Theatres, which operates six venues in the city's West End, has started sound-testing snack wrappings in a bid to quell the furore, its head, Nica Burns, confirmed Wednesday.

The chain -- whose theatres include the Palace, Lyric and Apollo -- is trying to strike a balance between customers who want to nibble during a performance and those, including actors, increasingly irritated by the noise it can make.

During a phone interview, Burns demonstrated the informal tests the company is carrying out by opening two differently packaged nuts -- one audibly louder than the other.

"This is our scrunch testing," she said.

"That is the process that we're going through, trying to find packaging of things that people like to eat in theatres that don't make a noise."

Burns said Nimax permits only a limited range of snacks and confectionary inside auditoriums that it sells on-site.

But an increasing number of theatregoers have been expecting to enter with various edibles, including take-away food.

"We don't allow food into the theatre," she said. "We have very politely asked people to eat their lunch or their supper outside."

She also said that Nimax is adapting its food lines and has banned certain products because their wrapping is too noisy.

"This is a big issue for places of entertainment," she said. "People get uptight about rustlers and eaters, and people get upset when we don't let them in with food."

"We're just trying to find a way in which we can keep the most number of people happy."

British media reported that the Harold Pinter theatre prohibited audiences last year from eating during a production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" after leading actress Imelda Staunton complained that it was distracting.

Meanwhile, security staff at the Lyric attracted criticism for confiscating a child's popcorn which was disturbing other patrons, according to The Times.