Why Do Movie Theaters Sell Popcorn?

Why Do Movie Theaters Sell Popcorn?


How, of all the snacks on earth, did popcorn
become the mainstay of movie theaters? It starts with a bit of history. See, popcorn
has been around for ages, and it was a popular snack at 19th century fairs and carnivals,
especially after the invention of the first steam-powered popcorn-popper back in 1885.
People loved the crunchy, salty, inexpensive snack. And movie theaters hated it. During the era
of silent film, these companies followed many of the same rules as traditional theatres
– and they didn’t want to be associated with a loud food that could distract from
the show. Additionally, there was a little bit of a
class consideration here. Since audiences had to read the dialogue on screen, they had
to be literate. AKA a “better” sort of people, with superior education. Allowing
popcorn inside was, in the opinion of these theater owners, kind of like throwing sawdust
on the floor and saying “Yeah, sure, spit wherever.” Talkies, or films with spoken dialogue, emerged
in 1927, and this brought movie theaters to the common folk. Suddenly anyone could cough
up some change, grab a seat and understand what was going on. This was also the time
of the Great Depression, when Americans from coast to coast pined for cheap, escapist entertainment. So the average Americans finally found the
cinema, and they brought their snack culture along. And the Depression affected theaters,
as well – theaters with the best chances of surviving were the ones that gave customers
what they wanted. At first, independent vendors sold popcorn
outside the theater, profiting from the casual passersby as well as from future movie patrons.
Since corn kernels were dirt cheap, popcorn became even more – wait for it – popular. Anyway. Things, as the internet likes to say,
escalated quickly. Movie theaters allowed vendors to sell their
wares in the lobby for a small fee. Eventually, they cut out the vendors entirely, acquiring
their own poppers. During World War II, popcorn sales saw another bump. Sugar was rationed,
which made many conventional sweet snacks and drinks, like soda, more expensive. (At
least, that is, when they were available at all.) Popcorn, on the other hand, only required
salt and popcorn kernels, neither of which were hard to come by. By then the association between movies and
popcorn was firmly established in the mind of the American public. This association continues
today, but there’s another wrinkle to the story. “Ben,” you might be saying, “sure,
popcorn was cheap in the Depression or whatever, but what happened? When did it become so expensive?” That’s a great question. The price hike
really kicked in, not just on popcorn, but on all concessions, back in the 1970s. Contrary
to popular belief, your local movie theater doesn’t actually make much bank off the
films it screens. Instead, theaters use concessions to stay in business. According to the Stanford Business School,
concessions comprise only about 20% of a theatre’s gross revenue, but 40% of its profits. This
makes sense when we consider how theaters have to split ticket revenue with movie distributors,
but can pocket 100% of whatever they manage to sell at the snack counter. The bulk cost
of the ingredients is laughably small, and the profit margin is huge. And let’s not forget
that this stuff is addictively delicious. Thanks for watching. What’s a snack you
think more movie theaters should sell? Is there anything that could replace popcorn?
Everyone who said whiskey, let’s hang out later. In the meantime, stay tuned for more
BrainStuff.

100 thoughts on “Why Do Movie Theaters Sell Popcorn?

  1. I wish I can find a big bottle of kettle flavor sugar like theaters have but Walmart sells small ones. I want economical size!

  2. Over here in the far east, back in those days, melon seeds used to be a favourite snack for movie goers where they kept themselves busy cracking open the seeds with their front teeth producing a small crackling sound…and since everyone was doing it, it became what would be called by the annoyed section of the crowd : the "kuaci" (melon seeds) orchestra…

  3. I usually sneak in all my own food anyways. In the UK its around £10 for 2 popcorns at least up where i live. fuck that.

  4. i remember those watermelon sticks back in early 80s..i was addicted to them..consumed them during the era of superman II and the empire strikes back..now i dont see them anymore 🙁 think they were by jolly rancher

  5. A regular-sized popcorn bucket sold on movie theaters here costs the same as buying a whole bag of popcorn kernels which usually lasts me a week of watching movies and shit

  6. We have dine in theaters here so you could get pretty much anything you want. I more of an eat then go to a movie, I hate the noise of wrappers and the crunching of chips.

  7. Hell the cinepex in my town charges over $4 for a single serving bottle of Dasani water. They may be able to pocket whatever they sell for concessions but they are gouging the piss out of the price! I won't buy it.

  8. expensive you bet. i paid 9 bucks for popcorn yesterday. But there was extra butter, with no extra fee…so i guess theres that.

  9. It was interesting when I was in Japan we checked out a theater and the ticket prices were upwards of $30 dollars a ticket but the concession prices were laughably cheap. So, there it is kind of the other way around.

  10. Popcorn and its hools is toxic to your health and especially to your small intestine blocking your villi which the how the nutrients go to your blood stream. I like raisins.

  11. Theres one in Salt Lake City that sells hotdogs and pizza hut and slushies and who knows what else. I loved it but pizza in a dark room isn't as good as it sounds.

  12. Dried Fruit or a variety of nuts and yes on liquor. so long as there is a maximum. We dont want a loud drunk in the theater. We all get enough loud sober talkers as it is.

  13. I don't go to theaters, but if I did I'd want snacks like pretzel bites, fries, and veggie crisps in addiction to popcorn.

  14. I sneak my own anal lube and liquor into the movie theater while on a date b/c I'm romantic. A good woman appreciates such things.

  15. Also because popcorn is salty (as well as nachos and a lot of concession foods). And what happens when you eat salty food? You need to drink! So whomever buys popcorn almost always will also buy fountain drinks/pop/soda.

  16. the popcorn at the cinema is so easy… its made perfectly consistently every time its ready for you all you do it pay a little money you get a cardboard box of popcorn… they never run out its always available and it doesnt take very much time to serve it out…

  17. neer use the word "addictie" as a joke or pronoun to a non-medically defined drug. Please….it is subliminally dangerous

  18. Movie theaters should start selling popcorn chicken, fries, reeses pieces, pringles, and hot cheetos!
    And have better sections for seats in the back that are separated so other people can't look at the blowjobs

  19. Popcorn is also mostly just manufactured air which is why its so light yet bulky enough to fill your mouth. That's why you can eat so much of it during the span of a hour to two hour long movie and still not feel all that hungry.

  20. I think movie theatres should sell no more snacks, because they're painfully overpriced. However, I'm not going to tell them to stop, and on the extremely rare occasion that I allow myself to be dragged into one, I'll just continue bringing in my own.

  21. The last thing you need in a theatre is the noisiest possible food, served in the loudest, crackliest packaging, eaten by the most ignorant, arrogant slobs, who eat it with their mouths open. One of the main reasons I stay away from most films. A good reason to go to a posh art house cinema, though.

  22. I once spent several hours talking to a guy who sold popcorn outside a large office building. He said the oil and containers were the expensive parts of the product, with the popcorn and salt the cheap parts.

  23. Eating and drinking should be stopped in movie theaters. Let's restore art. Its distracting, loud, annoying and trashy.

  24. I know this is going to sound incredibly ignorant, but is popcorn popular in theaters outside the US? Just something I’ve wondered about.

  25. So if every customer at the movie theater didn't buy anything from the snackbar, would the movie theater loose money on showing the movie?

  26. Also, salty popcorn makes you thirsty so you'd buy a drink, and it makes you feel like you'd want something sweet as well so you'd buy candy as well and they make more money off you.

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