Young boy smirks while man holds several popcorn tubs

Why Is Popcorn Associated with Movies?

Popcorn might be the most popular movie snack of all time, but did you know this wasn’t always the case? Here’s how it ultimately claimed its spot in the hearts (and stomachs) of moviegoers everywhere.

Movie and popcorn make so much sense together that most people have likely never thought about how they got linked in the first place. But — and this might come as a huge shocker — snacks weren’t even allowed in movie theaters back in the day. 

So how did popcorn become a movie snack and an eventual staple in your cupboard? Let’s take a quick trip back in time and investigate:

Why Do We Eat Popcorn at the Movies?

Mom and daughter stare at a bowl of popcorn

It all started when popcorn was introduced to North America in the early 19th century. People found the snack novel and it quickly (forgive the pun) popped up everywhere. Carnivals, circuses, the streets — you name it. 

Much of its popularity had to do with Charles Cretor, who invented the first steam-powered popcorn machine in 1885. The popcorn maker’s portability made the snack easy to produce and offer to patrons, with the irresistible aroma of the corn popping being a major draw. 

The Roaring 20s 

Popcorn was still a crowd favorite by the 1920s when movie theaters started growing in number. People also wanted to take a bag of popcorn with them to these theaters, but they were banned from bringing snacks entirely. 

This was because early movie theaters wanted the patronage of society’s upper crust. They wanted to be like classical theaters. Allowing popcorn in cinema (and other concessions) would have ruined the elaborate furnishings as well as the atmosphere since its loud, crunchy sound would have distracted the audience from enjoying the silent films of the era. 

The Great Depression

Things changed during the Great Depression. By this time, talkies replaced silent films and more folks began watching movies as an escape from reality. Popcorn, meanwhile, stayed a popular snack since it was cheap to make and was a luxurious but affordable treat for a majority of the population.  

This led street vendors to start selling popcorn outside theaters, even though snacks still weren’t allowed. Movie theater owners finally came around once they saw how many people were sneaking in bags of popcorn and permitted the vendors to sell inside the venue. Eventually, theaters started installing concession stands and selling their own popcorn. This move saved their businesses. 

World War II

The 1940s brought about sugar shortages. As a result, candy production got too expensive and disappeared from concession stands. Popcorn didn’t have the same issue, so with little competition left, it became the go-to for moviegoers — more than half of the popcorn Americans ate was at the movies. 

The 50s and 60s

two women point while their friend holds a remote

Movie theaters saw a decline in attendance after more households began owning TVs in the 50s and 60s. Although this might have impacted popcorn sales, it did open the snack to a new market: home audiences. Of course families wanted to munch on popcorn while enjoying their shiny new TV sets!

To recreate their favorite movie popcorn at home, they would pop kernels on the stove using a deep pot with a lid. Products like EZ Pop and Jiffy Pop were also a hit, as these all-in-one popcorn makers required minimal effort.

1980s and Beyond 

woman smiles as she transfers popcorn from an orange stovetop popper into a wooden bowl

Popcorn became an even hotter commodity with the rise of microwaves. All you needed to do was put in a bag pre-measured with kernels, oil, and seasoning, press some buttons, and wait for the magic to happen while your VHS tape finished rewinding.

And as technology advanced, so did the variety of popcorn makers in the market (and the ways people can watch movies and shows). Today, you’ve got options ranging from electric popcorn makers to air poppers and stovetop popcorn poppers — movie night has really never been more convenient.

Bring the Movie Theater Experience Home 

So you finally know how popcorn in cinema became a thing. Now you can understand why movie popcorn isn’t just a snack. It’s deeply rooted in history and will always have its place in concession stands as well as your home.

If you want to make true movie theater popcorn at home, you better get your hands on our modern stovetop popcorn popper

It might remind you of the one you used to have as a kid, but it’s easier to use, prevents burnt and unpopped kernels, and is so much sleeker. Paired with our Oh Sooo Buttery Popcorn, it’s the perfect way to bring the movie theater experience to your living room. 

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