What exactly is a year’s worth of popcorn?
When I was scooping the stuff from behind the counter of the St. George Theatre, back in those primitive times, the mid-seventies, when a gang of us kept a 2,672-seat movie palace going for just one year (1976), I came about as close as I’ll ever come to OD-ing on one of my all-time favorite foods.
Breakfast was tea and a yogurt chased by a cup of fresh-pop — almost cereal!
Lunch was sometimes egg salad on a roll (the eggs were from home, the rolls had been bought for Sabrett’s dogs) — and, of course, a handful of kernels in clarified butter to round things out.
Dinner? That Sabrett’s hotdog on a fresh Italian roll, with dijon and a handful of corn.
By the time our theater venture failed, I was sure I’d never want popcorn again, but if you’ve always loved the salty fluffy stuff, that craving miraculously never vanishes.
Popcorn is a strong revenue source at the movies. almost as important as ticket sales themselves. While Cinemark is raffling off popcorn futures, AMC, their larger competitor markets their popcorn in supermarkets and on the web, in and out of the theater. They brag that “Every day, we pop about 35 tons of kernels. That adds up to 52 million bags of popcorn sold each year.” Now that you’re less likely than ever to go out to the movies they hope you’ll pick up some on the way home to binge Netflix.
What got me thinking in this direction was a comment by a reader (Judy) who wrote in after one of my recent posts:
I manage an art house cinema. We installed a large exhaust fan above our popcorn popper. It vents to the outside. When popping popcorn the delicious aromatic smell of fresh buttered popcorn fills the theater and the sidewalk outside drawing pedestrians in off the street and exiting with buckets filled with the buttery treat. During Covid we may not get our seats filled but people’s taste for this salty pleasure keeps them coming in our doors.
Judy was responding to my story about how we employed “subliminal advertising” way back in 1976, by placing an old popcorn machine in the room with the giant AC system that cooled the auditorium. Popcorn and the movies: who knows where one ends and the other begins?
For an early treatment of popcorn and ticket sales, check out this oldie. The stats are still pretty accurate, which is surprising, given inflation...