CAMPAIGNERS in the region have criticised "irresponsible" cinemas which are allowing people to buy and consume large amounts of alcohol during family films.

North-East cinemas have also been found to be selling alcohol for less than the price of popcorn - at the expense of the wellbeing of children and young people, according to Balance, the North-East Alcohol Office.

Balance 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 told that they could purchase more during the film. On another occasion, test purchasers were able to buy five pints of strong lager and take the drinks into a mid-afternoon screening of Monsters University (U).

This amounts 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. "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.

"Cinemas need to take more responsibility and tighter regulations need to be introduced."