A: Nothing. This may be a matter better discussed between me and my therapist, but I think sometimes when I am on the fence about seeing a certain movie in a theater, the fact that this hypothetical screening would also include the possibility of some real movie-theater-popped corn might have swung my decision more than a few times in the past. Am I alone in this?
THINGS I DID NOT KNOW: Popcorn is one of six major types of corn, which include dent corn, used for cornmeal flour and high-fructose corn syrup; flint corn, also known as Indian corn or calico corn, the preferred corn for making hominy grits; pod corn, a mutant strain that is not grown commercially; flour corn, used, as the name implies, to make corn flour; and sweet corn, which is grown for human consumption as a vegetable because of its high sugar content. Sweet corn is the only corn harvested before the kernels are dry and mature. Source: The Wikipedia machine. CORN!
The marriage between popcorn and the movies is long and storied. Original nickelodeons did not sell snacks, but most had a candy or treat shop right next door and patrons could snack before, during, or after the picture. According to fabricated film historian J. Periwinkle Wikipedia, “Because of its low cost, popcorn became a popular movie snack. In 1938, a Midwestern theater owner named Glen W. Dickinson Sr. installed popcorn machines in the lobbies of all his theaters. Popcorn was more profitable than theater tickets, and at the suggestion of a business consultant, Dickinson purchased popcorn farms and was able to keep ticket prices low.” According to actual film historian Stuart Hanson, "One of the great jokes in the [movie] industry is that popcorn is second only to cocaine or heroin in terms of profit."
FULL DISCLOSURE: I will confess that literal decades passed before I caught up with Popcorn, the 1991 horror movie concerning a wild group of film students who take over a local theater on a weekend to stage a horror movie marathon. How could I have missed this? It contains all my favorite things: scary movies, Tony Roberts, film students, and popcorn. The reliably wonderful Joe Bob Briggs recently showed it on his Shudder series The Last Drive-In, and it was a revelation. I strongly suggest my readers seek this one out. My one quibble: not enough popcorn.
STILL ANOTHER ANNOYING AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL PAUSE: My late brother-in-law John was the greatest popcorn maestro I have ever known. For John, homemade popcorn on the stove was both an art and a science, and I remember him always popping me a big batch before I would come over and babysit my niece and nephew. He used the same pot for decades, and it became nicely seasoned. I wonder now if it was ever washed, or would that just bring bad luck? John’s popcorn was, hands down, the best popcorn I have ever eaten. I’m happy to say that John’s son Joe has taken up the mantle of Family Popcorn Chef and has delved even further than his father into cook times, oil types, and unusual seasonings. The last batch Joe made for me was a religious experience, partially because I believe he used coconut oil to pop it. Gasp! Yum.
Although Orville Redenbacher Movie Theater Butter and Pop Secret Homestyle microwave popcorns are good and will do in a pinch, my favorite microwave popcorn is Paul Newman’s, all varieties. Since the pandemic though, it seems increasingly difficult to find ol’ Paul on the shelves of my local grocery stores. I have taken to ordering it online. Paul Newman’s microwave popcorn is delicious and the only commercially-available brand that offers the exact fragrance of the popcorn at my childhood theater, The Arlington. Opening a steaming bag of Newman's Own can transport me with Proustian efficiency to a far more innocent time.
THINGS I DID NOT KNOW: According to The Popcorn Board, “With a majority of the world’s popcorn production in the U.S., it makes sense that Americans eat about 13 billion quarts of popped corn a year. That averages out to about 42 quarts a person. Popcorn is even the official snack of Illinois. Surprisingly, 70% of the snack is eaten at home; [only] 30% is eaten at theaters, stadiums, etc."
FINAL TIP: Want something to give your homemade popcorn an extra little kick? Invest in some Himalayan pink salt. It’s widely available and delicious.
I pause here, as my readers all scurry to make themselves a fresh batch of popcorn.
Confess. That’s where you’re all going. Good. I'll be right over.