July 10, 2023
Lauren Platero

Movie Theater Popcorn | How One Item Can Accelerate Profits

Movie theater popcorn is the most beloved snack in the entertainment industry. Businesses love how it can help maximize profits, and consumers enjoy its distinct flavor profile. In this blog, we’re going to cover everything you need to know before selling popcorn. So, let’s jump right in!

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Movie Theater Popcorn: The Money-Making Snack 

It’s no surprise that movie theater popcorn is one of the most popular food favorites in the snack department. It’s a food group that can be successful, whether it follows traditional guidelines or modern food trends. Whether you’re the business owner of a movie theater or are learning how to open a movie theater, serving popcorn is a must. But why?

On average, the profit margin for fresh movie theater popcorn can be upward to 80 percent. This is massive, especially considering the markup (see: how to calculate markup). It's not uncommon to sell popcorn at a markup of a whopping 1,275 percent. 

Now, let's cover some reasons as to why movie theater popcorn rose in fame to begin with. See below:

1. Popcorn Is Inexpensive 

Movie theater personnel can purchase popcorn ingredients from a wholesale directory. Doing so allows them to get the best prices possible. Then, the theater can price each size accordingly, yet the profit margin will still be sky-high. For example, a bag of popcorn might only cost the theater 40 cents to make and can easily be sold for $5. 

Use a popcorn business checklist to cross off all the ingredients and equipment needed. Though it shouldn’t cost a fortune, it’s important to have everything you need to avoid difficulties. 

2. Popcorn Is Versatile 

Sure, everyone loves traditional movie theater popcorn with salt and butter. But have you considered selling gourmet popcorn? Such varieties come in countless flavors, ranging from sweet caramel to savory cheddar cheese. 

If you want to implement popcorn marketing ideas, creative flavors will come in handy. Not only will it help draw attention to your business, but it will surely stand out amongst the rest. Add a movie theater POS system and comfortable seating, and you’ll be golden.

3. Popcorn Isn’t Super Filling

Some movie theater menu items can be pretty filling. But popcorn? Not so much. While customers can only eat limited amounts of food like nachos and soft pretzels, popcorn is one of the lightest options. This makes it ideal to sell more. 

When theatre marketing tactics involve large orders of popcorn, it can appear as if the customer is getting a large bang for their buck. And though they are to an extent, this is another way to sell more due to that high markup we mentioned before. And since it’s not too heavy of a snack, selling larger quantities shouldn’t lead to much food spoilage.

4. Popcorn Lasts a While

It takes a lot of popcorn kernels to fill an entire bag or bucket. That’s one of the main reasons why so many movies-goers opt for this as a snack. There’s nothing more annoying than being finished with your movie snack by the time the opening credits are over. But with popcorn, you can savor it throughout the entire film.

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How to Make Movie Theater Popcorn

One of the best parts about movie theater popcorn is that it's extremely easy to make. As long as you have the proper popcorn supplies and popcorn making accessories, it should be a breeze. 

First, you'll want to make sure you have the following ingredients on hand:

  • Popcorn kernels
  • Vegetable oil or coconut oil
  • Butter
  • Salt (optional)
  • Seasonings (optional)

Now that you know which ingredients you need, it's time to make the snack! Follow these steps before showing your next roster of films:

  1. Heat the oil in a popcorn maker over medium-high heat. You want to make sure that you add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot. 
  2. Test the heat by dropping just a couple of kernels in the oil. If they pop, it's go time. 
  3. In a single flat layer, add the popcorn kernels. Making sure that they're evenly laid out will result in even popping. 
  4. If you're making popcorn on a stove top, place a lid on the pot. Trapping the heat and steam will promote the kernels to pop evenly. 
  5. While the kernels are popping, melt your butter of choice in a separate dish. 
  6. Once the popping slows down, remove it from the heat. 
  7. Evenly drizzle the butter over the popcorn. 
  8. Sprinkle your desired amount of salt and seasoning over the popcorn for additional flavor. Then, toss and mix it for even distribution. 

Now that you have the recipe, it's showtime!

How to Make Movie Theater Butter

We can all agree that it's the movie theater butter that makes the popcorn so delicious. If you're looking for a recipe beyond melting a stick of butter, here you go:

  1. Get your desired amount of butter in a microwave-safe bowl or saucepan. 
  2. If you're using a microwave, check it after short bursts of fifteen seconds. This will prevent the risk of a mess from bubbling over. 
  3. Add any salt and seasoning to the butter while it's heating up. This is key, as it will infuse the butter. It will also prevent the popcorn from having a grainy texture. 
  4. When the butter is fully liquified, remove the foam off the top. This step is optional, but will give the butter a smoother consistency. 
  5. Now it's time to pour the butter over the popcorn. Don't forget to toss the popcorn around to evenly distribute the buttery goodness. 

It's that simple! Any seasonings you prefer? You can use this process to try out numerous organic herbs and spices.

How Many Calories In Movie Theater Popcorn

Let's face it, movie theater popcorn isn't exactly a healthy food group. However, they can be adjusted to be healthier than other snack options. If you were curious about the caloric intake of movie theater popcorn, use the following as a guideline:

  • In a small popcorn, there are roughly 410 calories. 
  • In a medium popcorn, there are roughly 830 calories. 
  • In a large popcorn, there are roughly 1,150 calories. 

Keep in mind that the sizes above include the standard use of butter. When someone requests a bag or bucket of popcorn with no butter, the calorie count will be significantly less.

Is Movie Theater Popcorn Vegan

Most of the time, regular movie theater popcorn is vegan. The determining factor is the toppings, which is usually just the butter. If a movie theater uses plant oils, then the theater can also promote vegan offerings to the public. However, the use of dairy butters will make it less inclusive.

Considering the rise of vegan alternatives and other types of dietary restrictions, you might as well use plant oil. The only result it can lead to is higher sales, so why not? Plus, you can always take advantage of specialty popcorn flavors to diversify the menu.

Frequently Asked Questions About Movie Theater Popcorn

It’s truly mind-blowing that a product so simple and inexpensive can take a business’ profits to the next level. However, that’s the reality of movie theater popcorn. Read on for a brief overview of the topic, from the best options to how you can create that exact movie theater flavor.

What Kind of Popcorn Do Movie Theaters Use?

Movie theaters use basic popcorn kernels. They’re actually pretty similar to what you’d purchase at the supermarket. It’s all about the oils and flavoring that gives movie theater popcorn its unique flavor profile. 

What Is the Secret to Movie Theater Popcorn?

The top secret of movie theater popcorn is the flavor, which comes from Flavacol most of the time. This is a flavoring that’s added to the oil, giving the popcorn its distinctive taste. When you pair it with the right oil, you’ll be able to make movie theater popcorn at home.

How Is Movie Theater Popcorn Different?

Movie theaters make their popcorn different with seasonings and oil. For instance, some use a seasoning called Flavacol made by Gold Medal Products. In fact, they own about 90% of the movie theater popcorn market. You might also find movie theaters using canola or coconut oil for their subtle flavors.

What Store Bought Popcorn Tastes Like the Movie Theater?

Many consumers believe that Orville Redenbacher creates microwavable popcorn that tastes most like the movies. In fact, many movie theater chains carry the brand. So, it's no surprise that the at-home version doesn't taste too different.

What Oil Do Movie Theaters Use for Popcorn?

In most cases, movie theaters use coconut or canola oil for their popcorn. Both options provide a cleaner taste. Plus, coconut and canola oil are healthier alternatives to many types of oil.

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Extra Butter?

The best revenue-driving products are the ones that are inexpensive and easy to acquire. Movie theater popcorn checks both of these boxes. Plus, it’s a beloved snack by almost everyone. In fact, it’s pretty hard to envision a movie theater without it. So whether you serve standard flavors or a wide variety, ensure that popcorn is front and center on your menu. Then, sit back and enjoy the revenue.