Popcorn at the Movies

What will be the very first tradition I write about on this blog? Well, as it happened, the first that "popped" into my head was popcorn at the movies.

I imagine I'm going to include a lot of movie traditions, since I'm an avid cinema-goer (at least, I used to be), and I love the ritual and aesthetics of the movie-going experience.

But as it happens, I've hardly ever eaten popcorn in the cinema. In fact, I've rarely ever eaten anything at the movies. My ritual was to have a medium-sized Coke, and nothing to eat. My own personal tradition was not to take my first sip until the trailers began.

Coke might be my favourite drink and it never tastes better than at the movies.

I rarely get to the cinema these days-- not out of lack of interest, but for more mundane reasons. I'm also trying to drink less Coke (which I could swig all day long), so I've been more likely to have orange juice or milk in the cinema. But rarely popcorn!

As it happens, popcorn was banned in most American cinemas until the Great Depression, since cinemas put such an emphasis upon plushness and elegance. They didn't want  popcorn trodden into their nice carpets. But, when the Depression hit, the cheapness of popcorn meant it was an ideal snack for cinema-goers to carry into the movie. Eventually, the cinemas stopped resisting, and indeed began to sell popcorn themselves.

I got this information courtesy of the Smithsonian website, which explains it at much greater length. It also explains that the "yellow corn" popcorn which became associated with cinemas was not widely available before the association of popcorn with movies. Cinemas preferred it over the "white corn" variety as it expanded more and they could sell greater volumes. Then, when people started buying popcorn for their own private movie nights, they asked for the yellow popcorn rather than the white popcorn, precisely because of the cinema association.

These are the kind of quirks of tradition that I find delightful!

This Guardian article from a decade ago suggests that some upmarket cinema chains were trying to get rid of popcorn. I'm glad they don't seem to have succeeded!  


  1. Warm smile again - and I note Coke is just as non-Irish as root beer ...

    1. Ha ha! Thanks Roger. That's true, they are both liquid invaders! But Coke seems to have become universal at this stage!


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