The Weekly Moviegoer - Does This Popcorn Make Me Look Fat?
by Christopher Campbell
September 11, 2009
I go to the movies a lot, and every time I buy concessions. There are a few reasons for this. I like supporting cinemas in the place they make their primary income. I consider it part of my job as a commentator on the movie industry and moviegoing trends to be familiar with each cinema's options as well as the quality of those options. And, of course, I am a fiend for popcorn.
The more movies I attend, the more popcorn I consume, and presumably this is making me fatter. Not that popcorn is an especially unhealthy snack, but any food is bad for you in excess. I must confess, however, that the summer I lost 60 lbs, I was a nearly broke movie theater usher making up for my lack of grocery money by eating free popcorn from the theater's concession stand.
It's different to get free popcorn, though, and not feel bad wasting it. Now that I regularly pay for concessions, I both want the best for my buck and, due to my low income as a blogger and the recession going on, want to eat all that I've paid for. Therefore I give into the obligatory upsell suggestion from the concessionist and buy the bigger bag, and I manage to empty that bag.
Often I'll make the concessions my "dinner," because even if I eat a big meal before going to the movies, I have to indulge. Sometimes my stomach hates me afterwards, and in the long run my whole body will resent my decisions, too. But I can't stop.
Even when I attend press screenings and museum screenings I have to sneak in some kind of little snack -- nothing as noisy or smelly as popcorn, though. Meanwhile, I attend fewer of those sorts of shows partly because there is no food available or even technically permitted.
Given how much money I spend on concessions -- which typically consists only of popcorn, and very rarely a frozen drink -- per month, I wonder how high the theater's prices will have to go up before I quit my concessions addiction. I actually began thinking about this recently when the interview with Barack Obama in Men's Health magazine sparked false reports that the President is proposing a tax on soda that would help fund public healthcare (New York Governor David Patterson proposed a similar idea for his state earlier this year).
Fortunately for my wallet, I don't ever drink soda (with the exception of those soda-based frozen drinks). Instead I fill up my water bottle at the theater's drinking fountain. Yes, it's frugal, but it's also healthier. Especially since I'm balancing that with a giant bag of over-salted corn topped with fake butter (essentially vegetable oil).
I guess if all junk food, which would be pretty much all movie theater concessions, were taxed as part of a health care initiative, I would likely continue still buying popcorn. I stand pretty firmly against sneaking food in to the movies. Besides, my local multiplex has reportedly started searching all bags entering the theater. And like many moviegoers, I just can't watch a movie without munching. It's part of the moviegoing ritual that I've been habitually accustomed to all my life.
What about the rest of you regular moviegoers? Can you ever resist the exclusive taste of movie theater popcorn or other concession favorites? And do you, too, feel yourself gaining weight with every movie?
Popcorn photo courtesy of Dave Fancher on Flickr.
Reader Feedback - 20 Comments
I never buy concessions; way over priced and, frankly, very fucking annoying. I hate hearing thousands and thousands of crinkles during every scene of a flick. I think we should ban concessions!
crumb on Sep 11, 2009
Nachos with chilly 😉
Sara Kail on Sep 11, 2009
I can resist. But not all the time. I love movie theater popcorn - even if it is a bit stale and not hot and fresh. I just dump that butter right on that beast and chow down. I can definitely resist soda (or pop, as it is called where I'm from). Sometimes I perfectly fine with going in with nothing to eat at all, either because I just got done eating other food or perhaps I'm just not in the mood.
Dan Geer on Sep 12, 2009
small bag unless im sharing, and NO BUTTER. problem solved.
Brian Barajas on Sep 12, 2009
Concessions rule, I love nachos with chilli cheese, peanut M&M's and sweet popcorn. My American friend doesn't understand sweet popcorn. Nom Nom Nom. I usually have a large diet soda to balance the guilt
link1983 on Sep 12, 2009
My local movie house has a fidelity program that gives you points every time you buy a ticket, which you can eventually turn in for a limited selection of concessions. This makes me think concessions are not THEIR primary source of income (even if I do see families dropping 50 bucks on snack food). The popcorn is never very nice anyway, which encourages me to sneak in my own when I haven't got the points to get the freebies. Sneaking food in doesn't seem bad to me, if you don't throw it around and you dispose of the trash appropriately.
Joe on Sep 12, 2009
"Not that popcorn is an especially unhealthy snack, but any food is bad for you in excess." Just for the record, movie theater popcorn actually IS a very unhealthy snack. Unlike popcorn you buy and cook yourself in the microwave (which is air popped), movie theater popcorn is popped in butter which significantly increases fat/saturated fat content as well as calories.. I'm sorry for making any kind of deal about this but I wanted to clear that up because it was driving me crazy lol.
Nutrition101 on Sep 12, 2009
Hey #7 from an actual Nutritionist, not true popcorn is still healthy even at the theater, not all theaters pop it with butter, its an oil mixture with butter flavor and salted, and optional butter is added later . If you don't ADD butter, you are fine. Also when you get candy, stick to gummi bears (fat free fruit juice based) or raisinettes, because they are great healthy options. There is NO need to say all snacks at a theater are bad. Now the biggest thing to avoid are those frozen slushy drinks, tons of sugar .
dafoowes on Sep 12, 2009
I've taken in Subway meal at an AMC without care once. So yeah, I don't waste money on concessions. WAY too expensive for something you'll probably and shouldn't finish. I'll end this there because politics will just become...ugh.
Tra la la la la di da on Sep 12, 2009
Used to work at a theater... lived off of popcorn for awhile. I'm surprised whenever I still get in the mood for it, because wow, did I ever O.D. Here's some tips from somebody who knows: - That oil they pop the corn in? It comes in a metal bucket completely solidified like a brick... and they stick a hot piece of metal in there to liquefy it. I have no idea what the actual oil was, but just watching the process was enough to make me not want to eat it. And the floors behind the concession stand -- you could run at them and slide from one end of the stand to the other. - You Can Believe That's Not Butter. - "Fresh" is a funny, funny word. It is common practice for concession folk to pop corn throughout the entire (slow) "office hours" week, put that in plastic bags, and store that stuff in a back room for the big rush. When the weekend comes, they dump the week-old bag in that lovely window next to the jujubees. If you really want freshly popped pop-corn, point at the machine that's popping popcorn, and tell them you want THAT popcorn. - One of the more amusing things (off topic, I apologize) was discovering just how expensive CUPS are, comparatively speaking. That's right, the CUPS were the big drain on profits. When I worked there they let you drink pretty much however much pop you wanted... but not in a "real" cup.
dRailer on Sep 12, 2009
In AMC's, you're allowed to bring in your own drinks or food, to a certain extent. They can't stop you because they allow food in the theaters. So I have no idea why you would be against people bringing in their own food. The concessions so overpriced it's robbery.
Itri on Sep 12, 2009
Joe (#6): those programs that grant loyal customers free concessions does help the concession profits. Many people who are given a free popcorn will end up paying for a drink, and vice versa. So it's almost a guarantee of getting the person's money.
Christopher Campbell on Sep 12, 2009
#11 That's true. I walk in with my Jamba Juice or Starbucks all the time without even having to hide it. Fun fact: 34 pieces of popcorn is equivalent to one potatoe chip! - Men's Health
The_Phantom on Sep 12, 2009
13, that's sure as shit not movie theatre popcorn.
crumb on Sep 12, 2009
I've always heard that concessions are indeed the theaters main form of profit. They get a relatively small share of ticket prices which increases the longer the movie is out but being that most people see the films the first couple of weeks the movies come out they usually have to settle for that. I buy at the theater mostly to support it but I wish they would make an effort to expand choice with some healthier snacks. I'm sure it would be overpriced but for one that sometimes goes multiple times a week to the theater that would be a blessing to my waistline and a little less time at the gym working off that pocorn
foxtrot on Sep 12, 2009
I can resist sometimes, but I love having a little thing of popcorn and a drink. Popcorn + chocolate covered raisins.........mmmmmmmmm! I don't go to the movies often, and I know this might not be the healthiest, but why not treat myself? I could see how this would be a problem though for someone who goes all the time. I guess you'll just have to factor in the calories in your daily allowance, lol.
Sabes on Sep 12, 2009
It pisses me off just seeing the prices at the concession booth progressively higher and higher each time I go to a movie. Helps me fight off the urge to indulge. Also helps seeing the majority of people with the “large” tub of popcorn and “large” soda are morbidly obese, thanks but no thanks. I’d rather live to 50 without a dialysis appointment waiting for me after the movie.
In_rainbows on Sep 13, 2009
Coming form a big guy, around 270lbs, I like to have snack at the theatre form time to time. So I usually go to Kernals and get the double hit caramel popcorn and sneak that in. Same price as a large bag at the Galaxy, $6.99, but with the added benefit of delicious candy coating. Mmmmmmm.... I just cost myself 6.99.
Big Red Moose on Sep 13, 2009
nothing is worth sacrificing your health for. not even SUPPORTING YOUR THEATER. when it comes between one or the other - fuck the theater. you think the theater's gonna visit you when you're recovering from a triple bypass? indulging now and then is fine but be smart. don't be one of those thoughtless wonders that get themselves into credit debt in order "support the economy"! and don't be upsold. you know what's going on but you still do it? be frugal, fine. eat what you buy. but don't buy more than you want/should eat. and i dunno, movie theater popcorn sounds like it IS *PARTICULARLY* unhealthy with massive amounts of calories to boot... and if you watch a lot of movies in the theater, you might think about much more healthy alternatives most of the time - and if that means sneaking food (i haven't seen healthy snacks AT ALL in a concession stand) - again, fuck em. you associate movies with munching. fine. great. but if you let that kill you, you realize that's gonna be a really stupid way to go right?
jin on Sep 13, 2009
seriously, movie theater popcorn is not bad for you, it is popcorn, and popcorn is nothing but corn and oil. no matter who makes it, it still is the same, all popcorn needs some form of oil to stop it from burning, this includes the popcorn that is cooked in the microwave, as long as you don't pour a gallon of butter on it you will be fine, and technically speaking, popcorn is the healthy snack at movie theaters. most movie theater popcorn is better for you than the popcorn you buy elsewhere, the reason being, microwave popcorn and pre-made popcorn you buy in stores are full of preservatives, theaters pop their own corn which has no preservatives in it.
tr1gun on Sep 14, 2009
Sorry, new comments are no longer allowed.