The History of the Association of Movies at the Cinema With Popcorn and Vice Versa
Summer Blockbuster movies are coming to a close as we near autumn. Throughout the many cinema visits, did you ever wonder why popcorn is the staple feature in cinemas no matter where you go? Or perhaps you have wondered why the idea of going to the cinemas to catch a movie sometimes results in the thought of eating popcorn, sometimes even before you enter the cinema compound. If you’re like me and got curious to this culture of cinema movies and popcorn marriage, read on.
Popcorn (or rather popped corn) vendors wheeled their carts to places of high human traffic, which in the earlier days were carnivals, vaudeville shows, burlesque entertainment and the likes. When the arrival of “moving picture houses” came, people were fascinated and visited these places in the numbers. Where there are a high number of people, there the popcorn vendors shall be.
Originally, cinema house owners despised the idea that their plush and fancy motion picture venues were being littered and made sticky with the popcorn treats and other confectioneries. Despite their efforts to curb popcorn and other confectioneries from entering their premises, these goods continued to somehow enter their venues. Also, there were many people who stood up during the films to quickly nip outside to buy popcorn and bring it back in to eat.
A main factor for the popularity of popcorn purchases was due to the low price for a tasty and filling treat to accompany their low priced entertainment, especially since the popularity of movie houses came during the era of the Great Depression, thus catching a movie and having popcorn with family or friends was an affordable luxury. Came World War II and sugar was rationed, but popcorn persisted as the preferred snack as it was viewed to be more nutritious compared to other confectioneries, and so was the preferred production.
Some cinema owners realized that no matter what they tried, they couldn’t stop the people from having their sweet treat. So if you can’t beat them, join them! Why let the popcorn and other confectionery vendors rake in the earnings? Thus a few motion picture house owners began to install their own popping machines, and soon they realized that their profits increased significantly. Realizing this, some places had their ticket prices lowered to entice movie-goers who would still purchase the popcorn, and this resulted in increased volume of customers. Cinema owners who did not install popcorn machines lost out and soon found themselves out of business!
In this present day, roughly two thirds of a typical cinemas revenue comes from ticket sales. However, most of the gross profit comes from popcorn and other snack sales. This difference is due to the fact that movie ticket sales are to be divided with movie studios, whereas sales of other items are completely kept by the cinema. In this sense, I doubt that cinema owners would ever consider not having their popcorn machines, snacks and drinks in their vicinities.
As the years rolled on, movie house owners continued to have popcorn machines and sell popcorn and other confectioneries, plus drinks. From generation to generation, movie-goers remember popcorn in the cinemas, what with the familiar smells wafting throughout the compound. I recall the strong smell of popcorn filtering through my car vents whilst driving by a cinema by the roadside! Through the years, a kind of conditioning spread globally.. one where a cinema experience is at times incomplete without that bag of popcorn. Hence despite slowly increased popcorn prices and even health studies slamming popcorn, throngs of people continued to enjoy their preferred snack at the cinemas.
Now if you don’t mind, I have a movie to catch, and you can bet that a bag of caramel popcorn would be in my hand!
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