Why do we eat popcorn at the cinema?

Popcorn – the snack that puts the ‘pop’ in ‘popular’ snacks to eat at the cinema. Why is popcorn and a movie such a great combination, though? To answer that question, let’s start with some history.

We’ll start with which came first. By the mid 1800s, popcorn was already a popular snack food, sold at circuses, fairs and on the streets. There was one place it wasn’t sold at that time, though – in the cinema. In fact, cinema hadn’t even been invented, yet.

Even when cinema started to become more and more common in the early 1900s, popcorn still hadn’t found its way into movie theatres. In the early days of cinema, movie theatres tried their best to recreate the luxury of a traditional theatre. With luxurious seats and carpets like a traditional theatre, eating was not allowed in early movie theatres.

In the early days, cinema was an art form for well-educated, wealthy people. This was in part supported by the need to read. Silent movies relied on screens of text to deliver important developments and background to the story, which meant that only literate people could enjoy it.

It was the advent of movies with sound in 1927 that started making cinema accessible to the masses and they wanted to bring their snacks into the theatre with them. Street vendors spotted this chance and started selling their popcorn outside cinemas. Eventually, the cinema owners themselves spotted this as a money-making opportunity and started selling popcorn themselves.

From the point of view of the cinema owner, it was perfect. Popcorn is cheap to produce on a large scale and no special skills are needed to make it. Also, the tempting smell of cooking popcorn is a more effective advert than any drawn sign. For the audience, too, it was ideal for eating while watching a movie – you can eat it with your hands and it won’t distract you from watching.

So, that’s why people eat popcorn at the cinema. It’s a simple, practical snack that audiences enjoy and that cinema owners can make a large profit from. It took a while to make it into the cinema, but now it’s there, popcorn is something we couldn’t imagine watching a movie without.

Guess what? The 19th of January is National Popcorn Day in the USA, so if you’re reading this article on that date, share it with your friends to show your appreciation for our favourite cinema snack.