Movie Theater Popcorn

May 8, 2013 | By | COMMENTS

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Movie theater popcorn is a total treat, worse for you than a Big Mac (I’m making that up but I’m sure it’s true), but one of the best parts about going to the movies. I always get a small movie theater popcorn and a small soda (Sprite) despite the fact that, the way it’s priced, you can get a medium-sized popcorn and soda for $0.50 more. That’s how they trick you.

Am I a butter-drencher? I am not. Butter that comes out of a pump worries me. Sure, that might be O.K. at Paula Deen’s house, but in my home butter comes from a stick that sits in my refrigerator waiting to be melted in a skillet. Pump butter is gross so I avoid it.

At Film Forum in New York, where I went last week to see the wonderful new documentary about magician Ricky Jay (Deceptive Practice), their popcorn has been celebrated as “the best in New York” which surprises many people who try it because it’s totally unadorned. No butter, no salt. You add the salt yourself from a bottle of Baleine’s sea salt on the counter.

It’s good popcorn, less Big Mac-like than the fluorescent yellow kind we’re used to, but does it even count as movie theater popcorn? If Whole Foods popped popcorn it would look a lot like Film Forum’s popcorn. Do we want our movie theater popcorn to be wholesome? My inner Paula Deen cries “no!”

Some people dump a bag of M&Ms into their popcorn shaking the whole thing up to create a sweet/salty sensation. Others buy a supersize bucket and go back for seconds. We all have quirky habits when it comes to movie theater popcorn.

The only part that’s hard for me is munching loudly during the movie. For some reason, just when I think it’s safe to stuff a whole fistful into my mouth, the theater gets totally silent; it’s a quiet, important scene and here I am about to make a loud crunch. Is this just a neurotic Jewish thing or do other people worry about this too? Hello? Is this thing on?

When I started this post, I didn’t know there was so much to say about movie theater popcorn. Reading it back, I’m still not sure there’s so much to say about movie theater popcorn. But here I am, I said it, and now I’m craving popcorn. To quote Oliver Warbucks*, “Let’s all go to the movies.”

* This is my 2nd Annie reference in one week.

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Categories: Food Bits

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Julie-Chase/731391326 Julie Chase

    I’m a butter pumper. Heh. I hate myself later, but I rarely see movies in the theater and that sludge makes me happy. Eaten with a fountain Cherry Coke.

  • Katherine

    I absolutely love getting popcorn. It fills me up pretty easily so I usually get one of those kid’s trays, it’s like maybe a cup or so of popcorn (buttered, can’t resist), a drink (i usually get water), and some snack size of candy. It always fills my craving just fine. That M&M trick sounds cool!

  • JIll

    my friend ate it with red licorice…much like a popcorn ball

  • Linda

    I live in France and one of the things I miss the most is that fabulous smell of popping popcorn when you enter the movie theater. In France, if the have it, it has been popped elsewhere and, as you might imagine, tastes sort of stale. I never have it here but there are always M&Ms

  • lolowyo

    I always preferred Hot Tamales in my popcorn. Because OF COURSE.

  • Paula Nunes

    You go to the cinema to see the film not to eat popcorns or drink soda.
    Please respect the other viewers.
    If you are that hungry eat before you go.

  • http://twitter.com/takouklaki Cassie

    Big LOLs to the “please respect the other viewers” comment down there. Hilarious!

    But yes. I always end up with a full mouth trying to silently, sloowly clench down my jaw to chew it up during some enexpected moment of quiet tension during the film. But I’m fairly neurotic myself, though not the least bit Jewish, sadly.

  • Heather

    Movie theater popcorn was one of my pregnancy cravings. I’ve always had a special place in my heart, errr stomach, for the stuff. But in that third trimester… Man, I HAD to have it.

  • Sssshhhh, I’m trying to listen

    I agree. There is nothing more irritating than hearing the furtive hand rustling around in a greasy bag of popcorn, followed by loud crunching, followed by a big slurp while watching a film. The whole thing is disgusting, like pigs at a trough.

  • http://twitter.com/sheaSec Tim Shea

    At home I never put butter on my popcorn. But at the theatre the popcorn is usually so flavorless – it goes under the pump.

  • http://twitter.com/sheaSec Tim Shea

    People don’t got to a theater to see a film. They go to the theater to experience a film. That experience includes buying popcorn or a snack. I feel sorry that you missing out one a very critical element of that experience Have a bad popcorn accident as a child?

  • http://twitter.com/ashtx Ashlee

    In certain parts of Texas (at least in the south), it’s so common to eat a large dill pickle with popcorn that movie theaters sell them. Perfect combination of salty + sour. Another Texas-y thing is at the Alamo Drafthouse theaters, where you can get your bottomless popcorn topped with herbed Parmesan cheese.

  • Gaia

    You might want to accept the fact that for some people the “experience” – that is, seeing a film – does not include snacks and popcorn… and it doesn’t necessarily mean they had a “bad popcorn accident” as a child. Just that they don’t like it. Incredible, right?

    There are so many things to feel sorry about in this world and I don’t really think this is one of them… Incidentally, I also think that yes, there are so many critical elements in a “film experience” and popcorn is not really one of them. The film is, for one. The big screen. The comfy seats. Magnificent audio. Popcorn? Meh.
    So no need to feel sorry for us. We’re good, really!

    That said, eat as much popcorn as you wish. Sometimes I enjoy it too, but seriously, take it easy.

  • Marcy

    M&Ms in popcorn aren’t NEARLY as good as Raisinets! Also, I am relatively certain that the “butter” at most theaters is butter-flavored oil, so it’s probably smart to avoid it!

  • Derek

    I’ve abstained at movie theaters for years, but when I did it movie theater popcorn, it was buttered. Just like God intended. Nowadays, the stench of movie theater popcorn is a big turn-off. There are few things worse than the popcorn breath of someone sitting behind me wafting over my head and face. I may not like it, but popcorn, pop, and snacks are and have been a staple of the movie theater experience. Complaining about that seems like complaining about all of the people cheering at a football game.
    I am a big popcorn eater at home. Much, much better than the movie theater stuff. I’ve gone through lots of phases. We started with oil machines in the 70s and 80s, moved to air pop in the 90s and 00s, dabbled with microwave in some shameful years, and I’m back to making it the old fashioned way with oil in a stock pot. I usually skip the butter and dump a ton of salt on it, but sometimes I go for the butter, too.

  • Animom

    If you ever decide to make popcorn at home, use coconut oil. It gives it that movie theater smell and taste. Trust me!

  • Janice

    I dont have a problem with the sound of popcorn as much as crinkly bags of chips that people bring in. If I want silence I will watch a film at home. I couldnt believe when a person next to me started eating an apple. Now, thats TOO loud. Oh, and definitely no to the pumped “butter”.

  • Kimberly Wydeen

    I can appreciate the bothersome noise of people eating when you are watching a movie. I can understand how that would be annoying, to a certain degree.

    But here’s the deal: when you are in public, you don’t get to control what other people do. It is custom to eat popcorn in the movies, so when you want to see a movie you should a) go at a non-busy time b) not go to the movies at all or c) get over it. Because you can’t control other people.

  • tunie

    There’s a great youtube video on Heston Blumenthal’s experiment with movie popcorn.

  • http://twitter.com/behgopa78 Miss Kim @ behgopa

    The movies wouldn’t be the same without popcorn. I am a butter pumper too. I know it’s terrible, but I love it buttery (even though many times, it’s not even butter, but oil). I like to get the kid’s meal. I haven’t been a kid for years, but it’s just the right amount of popcorn, drink, and whatever snack because I don’t need THAT much popcorn or a gallon of soda. And it’s cheaper!

  • 3boys

    The theater doesn’t really make money on the ticket sales, they make their money on concessions. I personally don’t get up when they play ” let’s all go to the lobby” but I’m happy to have others subsidize my trip to the movies with their purchases.

  • Brian

    I’m not a huge fan of movie theater popcorn, I can enjoy the movie without it.

    Though I might be more inclined to indulge in movie theater popcorn if they served it plain and offered a shaker of nutritional yeast. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/carolyn.kelly.5 Carolyn Kelly

    I work at a dine in theater, and I’ve learned that theater popcorn is yellow because the salt it is popped with is orange, for the looks of it, and the “butter” is definitely butter flavoring and in no way related to real butter. Turns out that at one point we had a gourmet popcorn that had real butter on it, and guests complained that it wasn’t buttery enough.

  • Boo-urns

    There is no such thing as “popcorns”

  • http://twitter.com/Savour Kate @ Savour Fare

    I like the popcorn at the Arclights because the butter is actually butter which tastes like butter and not some worrisomely salty oil.

  • Monica

    The summer before I left for college I worked at a movie theater…it was one of the most mind numbing and excruciating jobs ever. On a busy weekend night, the lines for the concession stand would snake all the way around the lobby. What amazed me the most were the folks who had stood, maybe 15 min in line, and then when they got to the front, had no clue what they wanted. The perks of the job, of course, was unlimited popcorn and movies. As they say…too much of a good thing…and I soon began to experiment with popcorn. I settled nicely on stealing some of the Parmesan from the pretzels and the jalapenos from the nachos. I invariably have to suffer through perplexed looks as I ask for jalapenos when I order popcorn.

  • k

    Yes, one of my weaknesses…the smell the taste–the anticipation of the movie…the munch munch munch. I try to eat healthy-avoid coffee (caffeine), candy (sugar), but when it comes to popcorn. It’s like a couple times I tried to not get it at the movie theater—-I had withdrawal symptoms….once the movie got started and I could get past the first 30 minutes into it—I could do it. But during that time and before the movie….it takes all my will power NOT to get it.

  • k

    Yes, one of my weaknesses…the smell the taste–the anticipation of the movie…the munch munch munch. I try to eat healthy-avoid coffee (caffeine), candy (sugar), but when it comes to popcorn. It’s like a couple times I tried to not get it at the movie theater—-I had withdrawal symptoms….once the movie got started and I could get past the first 30 minutes into it—I could do it. But during that time and before the movie….it takes all my will power NOT to get it.

  • k

    Yes, one of my weaknesses…the smell the taste–the anticipation of the movie…the munch munch munch. I try to eat healthy-avoid coffee (caffeine), candy (sugar), but when it comes to popcorn. It’s like a couple times I tried to not get it at the movie theater—-I had withdrawal symptoms….once the movie got started and I could get past the first 30 minutes into it—I could do it. But during that time and before the movie….it takes all my will power NOT to get it.