Popcorn Update….Maybe

Posted on August 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Copyright 20009 Joakim Wahlander https://www.flickr.com/photos/wahlander/3873255763/
Copyright 20009 Joakim Wahlander via Flickr

Remember when I explained how movie theater lobbyists created a loophole in the rules requiring places that serve food to let you know the calories and fat content of your purchases?

I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but it’s worth mentioning that two Senators are trying to close that loophole. Ignore the inflammatory headline. No one is “coming for your popcorn.” This is not Mayor Bloomberg at the federal level. This is making the market work efficiently by giving you the information you need to make a wise decision. Which is why it probably won’t happen.

Of course if they really wanted to come down hard on popcorn, they’d make the theaters let you know what their share of the profits is from the wildly inflated concession stand prices. I don’t begrudge the theater owners the chance to make enough money to stay in business. Most of the profits from ticket sales go to the studios. But purchasers might want to know that “when you pay $6 for a medium-sized bag of popcorn in theaters, you’re paying a 1,275 percent mark up compared to the cost of buying three 3.5-ounce bags of microwaveable popcorn sold in a box for about $3 at the store.” Put it this way: the concession stand pays more for the cost of the cardboard container than it does for the popcorn and “butter substitute” that goes into it.

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Advertising Commentary

Who Put Popcorn and Movies Together?

Posted on October 6, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Smithsonian Magazine goes back 8000 years to find out why we eat popcorn at the movies.

Popcorn–a name mostly associated with puffed kernels of corn–is actually a strain of corn, characterized by especially starchy kernels with hard kernel walls, which help internal pressure build when placed over heat. It was one of the first variations of maize cultivated in Central America….After popcorn made its way to the eastern part of North America, it spread rapidly. Eaters found the act of popping corn wildly entertaining, and by 1848, popcorn, the snack food, was prevalent enough to be included in the Dictionary of Americanisms. Popcorn had literally exploded onto the scene and was available everywhere–especially at entertainment sites like circuses and fairs. In fact, there was really only one entertainment site where the snack was absent: the theaters.

In the early days, movie theaters were modeled after legitimate theaters and movie theater operators did not want popcorn, which was messy and associated with low-budget entertainment.  Surprisingly, it was the addition of sound to movies and the wider range of audiences that the talkies attracted that made theater operators turn to popcorn.

The Great Depression presented an excellent opportunity for both movies and popcorn. Looking for a cheap diversion, audiences flocked to the movies. And at 5 to 10 cents a bag, popcorn was a luxury that most people were able to afford. Popcorn kernels themselves were a cheap investment for purveyors, and a $10 bag could last for years. If those inside the theaters couldn’t see the financial lure of popcorn, enterprising street vendors didn’t miss a beat: they bought their own popping machines and sold popcorn outside the theaters to moviegoers before they entered the theater. As Smith explains, early movie theaters literally had signs hung outside their coatrooms, requesting that patrons check their popcorn with their coats. Popcorn, it seems, was the original clandestine movie snack.

This classic ad has even been included in the Library of Congress National Film Registry.  (You may have seen a recently updated version reminding you to turn off your phone.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9QAPch2o6Q

 

 

 

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture

What Movie Theaters Don’t Tell You….

Posted on April 13, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Did you know that all ticket receipts for the first two weeks go to the movie studio?  That’s why the food at movie theaters is so outrageously expensive.  And why they tell you the movie is starting earlier than it really does — so you’ll be there in time for the ads.  That’s how they make their money.  These and other secrets of movie theaters are revealed in a Reader’s Digest slideshow.

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Behind the Scenes

Movie Theater Popcorn: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Posted on April 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

The Food and Drug Administration released its proposed rules on disclosure of nutritional and calorie information for the food served in chain restaurants. But intense lobbying by the theater industry has led to a great big loophole — movie snacks are not covered, “even though a large popcorn and soda can contain as many calories as a typical person needs in a day.”

Movie theaters have to send all of their first few weeks’ ticket sale revenues to the studio. They get to keep a portion only later, after early crowds have already seen the films. They make their money on the jumbo snacks with the jumbo mark-ups. (Movie popcorn usually costs them less than the cardboard vats it is served in). And they know that giving consumers accurate information about the calorie and fat content of the snacks might scare customers into coming into the theater with a pocket full of baby carrots to munch on instead. The trade association argued that people want to take a break from their diets when they go to the movies, just like they want to take a break from their daily lives. That may be true, but it is no reason to keep them from the information they need to make that decision.

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Commentary
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