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Why Do We Eat Popcorn at the Movies?

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/why-do-we-eat-popcorn-at-the-movies-475063/

smithsonianmag.com

Why Do We Eat Popcorn at the Movies?
The movie theater's most popular concession wasn't always associated with the movies—in fact, it used to be explicitly banned

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A History Of Popcorn

A History Of Popcorn

Popped from a strain of corn which is starchy and a hard surface, popcorn was the first variant of maize that came from Central America thousands of years ago.

The sound of popping corn was entertaining, and by the 1950s, popped corn exploded, and was available in circuses and fairs.

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Popcorn: Banned At The Movie Theatre

Surprisingly, popcorn was not initially available at movie theatres, which were catering to a ‘highbrow clientele’ and didn’t want to spoil their expensive carpets and rugs.

They also thought that the crunchy sound of snacking on popcorn would distract the audience from the movies, which were mostly silent at that time.

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Popcorn: The Entry Into Movie Theatres

  • When movie theatres started showing movies with sound, the audience increased, as now people didn’t have to read the titles from the movies.
  • Popcorn by then was a cheap snack outside of theatres, with a bag costing only about 5 to 10 cents.
  • Moviegoers started buying them before entering the theatres, forcing the owners to halt this practice and restrict the entry of the snack in the theatre.
  • Eventually, the theatre owners realized they could sell popcorn inside the theatres and earn huge profits.
  • Many theatres were saved from going bankrupt solely on the ability to sell the crunchy snacks along with movie tickets.
  • By 1945, 50% of all popcorn that was consumed in the United States was eaten at the movie halls. The owners even used jingles and commercials to entice audiences to ‘go to the lobby’ during the movie interval.

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Popcorn Is Everything To Movies

Popcorn is admittedly sold at a huge markup in movies, as they make about 85 percent profits through its sales.

They are cheap to make at scale and are sold at prices that make them a primary profit machine for movie theatres.

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Popcorn When Television When Mainstream

Movie halls did amazingly well in the ’50s and the early 60s only to see a decline in ticket (and popcorn) sales due to something new in the market: The Television.

Popcorn machines started to make their way into households and while the sales were down, popcorn was now associated with movies, especially the yellow popcorn which expanded more and had the buttery-yellow tint.

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Modern Movie Experience

TV and other media eventually lived alongside the movie-going experience.

Popcorn is tied to movies as a ritualistic experience, and many luxury theatre owners provide gourmet-style popcorn to its patrons, along with other high-end snacks(with huge markups, of course) to make the movie-watching experience a complete one.

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