Item Purchased: Large Popcorn
Location Purchased: Landmark Century Centre Movie Theater / 2828 N Clark St. / Chicago, IL
Price: $5.00 w/tax
Purchased on: 04/19/08
Review: I’ll spare you the stories about how popcorn was traditionally the profit maker for movie theaters. If I wanted to impress you all with various facts about the movie industry, I would have gone to film school… oh wait… I did… Yet, I still don’t want to sit around regurgitating things I read in my film textbook. That’s what I did while I was in film school, just like everyone else.
I’d rather use my five dollar purchase to question why we feel the urge to buy popcorn at a movie theater. Seriously. I wasn’t even that hungry, and there were several other things to choose from at the concession counter… Including DVDs of recent films (really? who’s going to buy a movie after they just spent $10+ to see a movie?). Why, then, did I decide to go with the time-tested staple? Did I even decide at all?
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy popcorn as much as the next guy. I’m just not so sure I like it enough to pay for it at 7000% markup.
There is obviously something other than a simple consumer choice going on here. Popcorn at a movie theater may just be the single most powerful bit of expectational consumer psychology success in the world today. I admit it. I buy popcorn because it just seems to be the natural choice. It may be messy and awkward. It may leave grease marks on my fingers and pants. I may find popcorn crumbs in my collar and shards of kernels in my teeth weeks later, yet popcorn at a theater has transcended its status as consumer snack choice into the realm of very serious ritual.
The popcorn, itself, is always the same. Fresh, crunchy and hot, it tastes like what you put on it. For me, butter. Always butter (3 points for getting that movie reference). Usually there is salt too, but Century Center has upped the ante by providing a varied selection of “gourmet” popcorn toppings in the form of flavored dust. This time, I went with white cheddar.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, this modern ritual consists of executing a few test runs on the way to my seat, sitting down and proceeding to set a steady and consistent pace stuffing asymmetrical gobs of kernels into my greedy mouth. Half of the bag is almost always gone by the time the commercials, previews and silence PSAs have finished. When the lights complete their dimming cycle, a pang of shame usually washes over me and a split second of self awareness causes me to stow the remainder of my snack on the floor beneath my seat.
At this point, the opening credits of the movie have barely begun and two questions arise. The first question is why I didn’t order a smaller bag? The second is why I am still eating the dry kernels at the bottom of the bag when all flavor and hunger has left the building. For a while I am sated and comfortably enjoying whatever cinematic work is being projected before me, but before the first rising action has the opportunity to cleverly foreshadow anything, the bag appears in my lap and my right fist is plunged into the nutritionless void once again.
It is usually at this point of the ritual that I realize that what little butter is left has coagulated and attached itself to the inside of the bag. As it slowly and parasitically works its way up my arm in attempts of staining anything I touch, I realize it has ceased to flavor anything except for my open pores. Meanwhile, the popcorn itself has lost all of its warmth and is proudly displaying its lack of all flavor. I don’t even know what’s going on with the movie anymore! My breath quickens and all of the elements of my digestive tract curse the day I began purchasing my own food. Even though I knew how much I was getting ripped off going into this purchase, I act surprised and angry. I can’ help but wonder what kind of person has the constitution and superhuman bowels to take advantage of the theater’s free refill policy. As the ritual ends, I am left frustrated, in need of a loan and utterly confused about both my own actions and whatever might be taking place on screen.
I suppose this is why they suggest “dinner and a movie” instead of the reverse. Going to a movie hungry leaves me open to one of the most profitable rackets in consumer history.
You’d think I would learn, but I have been victim to this ritualistic savagery many times before and I am sure I will prove my weakness again.
Rating: 2 / 5