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The Marriage of Popcorn and The Movies


 A street vendor sells popcorn to children in 1912 Illinois. Image by © Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis.

Ever wonder how popcorn made its way into the movie theaters?  It was not always there!

Prior to the Depression here in the United States, one could not buy popcorn at the movies.

Popcorn has been around for centuries and centuries but did not make its way to North American until the early 1800’s and by the middle of the 1800’s, it was everywhere and enjoyed by most and was found especially at circuses and fairs.  In fact, at all places of entertainment one could buy popcorn…..all except one – the theaters.  Movie theaters had beautiful carpets and lovely seating and they certainly did not want to have their clientele grime them up with greasy popcorn!

When the movies became “talkies” in 1927, the people who came to enjoy the movies were from a broader background – maybe not quite so highbrow.  For one thing, you now did not have to be able to read to understand what was going on.

During the Depression, going to the movies was a wonderful, inexpensive diversion so people flocked to the movies.  But, even then, the movie theater owners did not want to sell popcorn in their establishments.  So, enterprising street vendors quickly realized that it could be a win/win situation for them and the movie goers and set up their  mobile popcorn makers outside the theaters so that people could buy their popcorn on their way in.  Many theaters made their customers check their popcorn when they checked their coats but as they saw that it could be a financial gain for them, movie theater owners finally decided that they would lease space in their theaters, or a small space directly outside their theater, to popcorn vendors.

And so the marriage of popcorn and the movies was consummated!  After a few years, the theaters realized that they could make so much more money by selling the popcorn themselves and so they did!  In fact, the selling of popcorn kept theaters in business after a lot of them almost went under in the mid-1930’s.

And now, rather than looking like the photo at the top, the popcorn vender looks more like this!


Yes, popcorn certainly adds to the abundance in our lives!





PS  Movie theaters make an estimated 85 percent profit off of concession sales, and those sales constitute 46 percent of movie theaters’ overall profits.






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  1. Jen Dilley #

    Interesting trivia! And it made me want to pop some here at the office today, since I can’t sneak away to catch a local flick. Gotta wonder if the Illinois picture was taken in front of the future Garrett popcorn shop in downtown Chicago, where people (ourselves included) still wait daily in a long line on the miracle mile just to get inside to purchase a bag or two! Hugs, Jen

    October 29, 2013
    • Two Chums #

      Gosh, maybe that is just where it is! Love to you!

      October 29, 2013
  2. Lara Clardy #

    Popcorn was at the first Thanksgiving. Native Americans had it long before that so it was in North America before the 1800’s. It is one of my favorite foods. It’s especially good for supper with soup in winter..

    October 29, 2013

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