How The Humble Popcorn Became The Worlds Go-To Movie Snack

4 min read

Any great movie is incomplete without stellar acting, exciting music, hard-hitting dialogues, and… drumroll, please… popcorn! A snack that has paved its way into the front seats of cinemas around the world, it is almost impossible to even think of watching a film in a theatre and not be munching on popcorn. This simple snack has become so important for movie-watchers that they are even willing to spend a lot of money to buy this complimentary treat. But has this always been the case? There must be a story behind how these buttery, light, and crunchy “popped-corns” became a must-have snack along with your movies, especially in theatres. Curious? Here’s the exciting story that will leave you surprised.

Grab a Tub of Popcorn, We Have a Little History Lesson

Eating popcorn with a new film might feel like something modern and contemporary. However, according to scientists and archaeologists, popcorn is as old as 8,000 years and originated in Mexico, North America. Popcorn’s popularity isn’t new either. According to research, popcorn was also common in parts of India, China, and Sumatra before the discovery of the Americas, notes However, it is still not known how or why popcorn existed in these parts of the world.
Also Read: Paneer Popcorn, Chicken Popcorn And More: 5 Popcorn Snacks To Indulge In This Weekend

Gather Around, It Is Time for a Story

Before being widely consumed as a food item in the Americas, the Aztecs – Native American people in the early 16th century – decorated their Gods of Rain and Maize with strings of popcorn. The popped kernels became an official part of Western culture at the first Thanksgiving celebration. According to popular legend, Quadequina, brother of the Indian chief Massasoit, brought a deerskin bag filled with pre-popped corn for that historical first potluck dinner.

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Popcorn – A Beloved Snack for Gatherings

In early America, eating popcorn became a part of festivities and gatherings such as quilting bees, barn raisings, singing, and banjo playing. People would popcorn in the fireplace and then season it with grease or butter. In the 1700s, popcorn also turned into a popular breakfast cereal that people enjoyed by eating it with milk and sugar.
Also Read: 5 Easy Homemade Popcorn Recipes You Can Make For Movie Nights

How Popcorn Turned into a Commercial Product

With the invention of the first automatic popcorn popper in 1885 and the glass-sided popcorn machine with its gasoline burner by about 1890, the snack became a popular item for vendors to sell in circuses, carnivals, fairs, and other events. The fact that the cooking machine was portable gave popcorn an upper hand over the other popular snack – potato chips.

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Movie Theatres Were Initially Not Interested

“Movie theatres wanted nothing to do with popcorn because they were trying to duplicate what was done in real theatres. They had beautiful carpets and rugs and didn’t want popcorn being ground into it,” explains Andrew Smith, author of “Popped Culture: A Social History of Popcorn.” Further, since films earlier were silent, the sound of snacking on crunchy popcorn in the background was seen as more of a distraction and thus was unwelcome.
Also Read: Is Popcorn Healthy For Weight Loss? Here’s All You Need To Know

Popcorn Vendors Began Business Outside Theatres

Around the Great Depression, a lot of audiences went to the movie theatre. The films were no longer silent, and thus literacy was no longer a parameter to be able to enjoy a film. Street vendors seized this opportunity and sold popcorn outside movie theatres by bringing their popping machines.
Once theatre owners recognized the amazing profits they could reap, they started allowing vendors to sell popcorn in the lobby, which was more of the street in front of the theatre and charged a daily fee. One of the best things that clicked about popcorn was that it was cheap for both the vendors and the buyers. Further, the aroma in the air around the vending machine would attract people automatically.
Eventually, with the development of technology, theatres were able to install popcorn machines in the theatres, and the rest, as you now know it, is history. As for popcorn’s migration to other places around the world, it was carried overseas for American servicemen and was eventually adopted by other countries.
Did reading so much history make you hungry? Go and grab some hot and fresh popcorn!

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