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How Popcorn went from banned to expensive in cinemas

We love popcorn in cinemas but why is it so expensive? Read on to explore the origin of this wonderful snack.

We love popcorn, some of us can’t even imagine going to the cinemas and not having popcorn. Popcorn and cinemas go hand-in-hand when it comes to the movie experience in the modern age. But did you know that before 1930s, popcorn was actually banned from cinemas and theaters.

Popcorn was really famous in fairs and carnivals especially after the invention of the steam-powered popcorn cart. People loved this crunchy, inexpensive snack, but the movie theaters (and cinemas in general) hated it. Popcorn was officially banned inside the theaters and you would have to check in the popcorn with your coat. Independent vendors sold popcorn outside the theaters, selling to passerby and some moviegoers. Vendors were making a huge profit.

Why was it banned you ask? Well, you have to keep in mind that this was the era of silent films, and movies at the time required audience who were educated so they could read the subtitles. The loud crunching and chewing of popcorn would have caused a distraction from reading the subtitles, and cinemas didn’t want to ruin the experience of the elite customers with sticky floors. They did not want to be associated with a loud food that could be a distraction from the show. This was more of a ‘class consideration’ choice than a practical one.

Then came the talkies

In 1927, the movie “The jazz singer ” was released. It was the first movie with synchronized dialogue and audio. Silent films disappeared quickly, and the doors opened up for everyone to enjoy the movies whether you could read or not. This marked the end of the silent film era and suddenly anyone with some spare change and hearing capacity could understand what’s going on.

The great depression

This was also the time of the great depression when people craved cheap entertainment as a means of escape from reality. The great depression impacted theaters as well. It was a rough financial climate for them. In order to survive, theaters had to let in all customers (including the common folk) if they liked it or not. Cinemas got a very low (even negligible) percentage cut for every movie ticket they sold.

A small percentage of the tickets sales was not enough to stay afloat. They had to look for other options for profit, Popcorn and some other concessions were an obvious choice. Corn kernels were dirt cheap and popcorn became even more ‘POP’ular (sorry for the pun 😜 ), so theaters allowed vendors to sell inside the lobby for a percentage cut. Eventually, theaters acquired their own popcorn machines and started to sell popcorn themselves. This way, they controlled 100% profit of all concession sales.

Popcorn had another boom in popularity. During world war II, sugar was very expensive. Soda, candy and other sugar-based snacks became scarce, so people turned to popcorn.

This marked the association between movies and popcorn among people of the United States, and later the rest of the world followed.

why so expensive?

Popcorn is expensive so that movie tickets can be lower and more people come in. More people in the theater leads to more people buying popcorn, and more profit to the theater.

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