The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Beyond the Popcorn Experience – Musings over cinema snacks

with 28 comments

Do you remember how the cinemas used to look before the Popcorn Invasion?

No?

Oh.

I suppose it’s yet another sign of me getting old quicker than I want to admit. You probably belong to a generation of cinema goers who take the smell of oil covered roasted corn and the sticky coat of soda leftovers on the floor for granted. It’s just something you expect to be there, a part of what constitutes a theatre visit. (Actually there ARE people who seriously think this. I stumbled upon an article relating to a debate about if there should be a popcorn ban in the theatres in Britain a few years ago, and there were people who seriously defended the presence of popcorn smell, claiming it was an “essential part of the experience”. A clear case of the Stockholm syndrome.)

But this old lady remembers. Once upon a time it wasn’t like this. Once upon a time you didn’t curse the staff for not cleaning up between the showings and you didn’t have to wonder where to put your feet and bag since the floor looks like a junk yard. Because there was no need for it. It was if not clean, at least close to it. At the most there were a few paper tickets, sometimes neatly folded since the boys used to blow them like trumpets, making fanfares as they waited for the movie to begin. Someone might have dropped an empty candy box under their chair after finishing it. A very small one that would be.  But no popcorn. And no drink cans. Not a single one.

Sales of snacks and drinks
I don’t know if they would have stopped anyone trying to enter the theatre brining the equivalence of a dinner to it. But the idea to do it just didn’t cross our minds. For one thing they didn’t sell the stuff on spot. There weren’t any special sales of snacks and drinks. They had a small, not to say tiny assortment of candy which you could buy from the woman in the small ticket booth. I always picked the same one: a small, compact package of square shaped hard fruit sweets called “Nickel”, which you slowly enjoyed one at a time curing the movie, letting them melt in your mouth rather than chewing on them. Not only didn’t they make noises; they lasted longer that way. That’s how it was for many, many years. Generations of Swedish movie visitors were brought up on Nickel.

This changed at some point. I haven’t been able to determinate the exact time, but I think it was during the 80s when it dawned upon the theatre owners where the real profit was to be made and adjusted their business model accordingly. And for all I can tell, the popcorn won’t go away anytime soon.

Sure, we’ve heard about concepts of cinema’s targeting a more adult audience, serving champagne and olives to an audience seated in leather armchairs. I assume it can be successful in a small scale in major cities. But taking the risk of sounding like a bore, renounce of visions, I find it hard to imagine it will break the Popcorn domination in the standard theatres within a foreseeable future. They’re just too profitable, too simple to produce and to sell and suitable for the fairly young audience.

Alternative snacks
But let’s leave out the popcorn for a while. It’s enough bad that we need to stand the smell and sound of them and step on them everywhere in the theatre. We don’t need to have them invade our conversations as well. So we’ll move along and ponder upon the alternatives. What would make a better movie snack?

Let’s start with what qualities I’m looking for. Here’s a list of what comes into my mind:

Must-requirements:

  • It’s quiet. Anything that is crispy, crunchy, forcing you to make noises as you consume it is out of the question.
  • It’s fairly small. At least in Sweden, there’s no abundance of personal space around your seat in the cinema. There’s nowhere to put huge boxes, plats and such things. You need to be able to keep your bog or bag in your knee or just hold it in your hand.
  • It doesn’t make me crazily thirsty. I have no wish to rush off to the ladies room halfway through the film. A perfect snack can be enjoyed without a drink to go with it.
  • It doesn’t make me greasy. As I said: I have no wish to rush off to the ladies room halfway through the film.
  • It tastes nice. Not much of a snack otherwise.

Nice-to-have requirements:

  • It’s reasonably healthy. I’m already ruining my health spending too much time sitting on my ass, watching or blogging about movies. There’s no need to make things worse filling my body with junk food.
  • It doesn’t cost a fortune. Thank you very much, but the tickets are expensive enough as it is. If you’re a heavy movie consumer like me, it adds up.

So where does this bring me? Well, back in the days when I used to spend a lot of time gaming, my favourite snack was miniature carrots. They were juicy, cheap, sweet and yet fresh, healthy and handy to eat. But sadly enough they’re out of the question as movie snacks. They fail at the first basic requirement with the unavoidable crunchy sound they make.

Slices of apples would fulfil every other requirement as well, but have the same issue. There’s too much noise around them.

A strong candidate would be seedless grapes. They’re fresh, juicy and healthy and if you bring them in a soft bag, there’s no reason why you should make sounds eating them. A word of advice though is to not exaggerate your consumption of them; I believe they can stimulate your digestion more than you want.

My favourite so far has been the box of fresh blueberries which I brought with me one night when I was in an experimental mood. Far from breaking the “no greasiness rule”, as you would believe, they were clean, neat and easy to eat, perfect to munch on one at a time. They would have been insanely expensive if you’d made a pie or jam out of them, but for snacks it was a reasonable deal.

The snack-free solution
Of course there’s a more radical alternative: to not eat anything at all. We’re not babies you know. We don’t need to eat constantly.  A gap of two hours to let our bodies just rest and process all the junk we’ve already eaten that day won’t hurt us terribly much; as a matter of fact it might do us good.

Once the movie is over, it’s an entirely different situation of course. After two hours on a diet without goodies you obviously deserve to make up for it.

Don’t worry. There’s an armchair waiting for you here at The Velvet Café.

Come inside, curl up where you feel comfortable and let me pour up a post-movie drink for you! It’s probably not what most people consider “healthy”, but it will be a treat for your soul, and that matters too.

Be kind to yourself. And enjoy your weekend!

Written by Jessica

August 19, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

28 Responses

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  1. Gummy candy! But then it sticks to your teeth and can make you very thirsty. And Swedish Fish fail the greasy rule by being coated in a thin layer of oil.

    What about bite-size, soft chocolate chip cookies, with a small bottle of milk?

    Klepsacovic

    August 19, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    • Hehe, I had no idea that jelly fish were called “Swedish”! But are they really greasy? You must have some other sort then. However, I definitely think they’ll make you thirsty, so it’s not that good.
      I like your idea about soft cookies. The bottle needs to be very small though. But again… hm… Milk is something you need to bring with you; it’s not likely that they sell it. And how do you keep it cold on your way from home to the cinema? Tricky.

      Jessica

      August 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      • Maybe it’s a purely American thing with our obsession on apocalypse-proof food that can last months with no negative effects, but there is a thin layer of oil, not so much that they are quite greasy, unless you eat a lot (I would).

        Wrapping the milk bottle in a blanket should be plenty if the theater isn’t hours away.

        Klepsacovic

        August 20, 2011 at 1:25 am

  2. The TIFF Bell Lightbox in Downtown Toronto has certain screenings of movies marked off a “Food Free”, meaning nobody is allowed to bring food into the cinema for that presentation. I love it. It’s a little unrealistic to expect this of all theatres, the Lightbox is a not-for-profit organization, so they don’t rely on popcorn sales to begin with. Still, how cool would it be to go to your local theatre knowing that the 7:00PM show of Midnight in Paris would be a food-free environment.

    I guess the only thing left after that is to find a way to get people’s phones to shut off automatically when they enter the auditorium. And also to make everyone mute. And to generally stop them from being pigs.

    Oh great, now I’ve just made myself sad again.

    Corey Atad

    August 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm

    • That’s the first time ever I hear of a “food free” movie. But I think it’s like you say, it takes a non-profit organization to run it. Normal theatres rely heavily on the income from snack sales as far as I know.

      But don’t be sad. Think of the children you’ll raise one day. Make sure they and their friends don’t turn into pigs. Maybe todays movie visitors are a lost case, but there’s always tomorrow.

      Jessica

      August 19, 2011 at 8:17 pm

  3. Me and the missus likes fer ta see our movies at the Alamo Drafthouse (is a chain here in Texas). In the theater, they done removed every other row of seats and put tables in insteads. They has menus with burgers and chicken and pizzas and appetizers and lottsa lottsa beers. Got waiters what takes yer order and brings yer food, startin’ about an hour before the movie (they got trailers and shorts and ads and weird random crap showing), or during the movie (ya writes yer order down on paper yerself). Works out surprisinglies well; prolly helps what they got zero tolerance fer talking and texting and Angry Birdsing during the movie, unlike a lotta other places.

    Ratshag

    August 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    • It sounds a little bit distracting that they’re serving and taking orders during the movie, but apart from that it sounds really interesting. I especially approve the zero-tolerance stance!
      I’ve heard of restaurant concepts in London and I think there was talking about some theatre wanting to try it in Stockholm, but so far I’ve never been anywhere near one myself.

      Jessica

      August 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm

  4. Haha Jessica, my favorite stand-up comedian has something to say to that too – you might enjoy it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuUpShuC5dY =D

    Syl

    August 19, 2011 at 6:51 pm

  5. I used to always have candy and a soda at the movies. But that was when my mom was paying for them. Now that I have very little money, I can only just convince myself that I should spend my money on the movie, much less a snack. It was tough at first, but I got used to it. You’re right, at the end, we can not eat for two hours.

    Alex Thompson

    August 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    • You’re a wise guy. Keep listening to yourself! More movies > candy & soda!

      Jessica

      August 19, 2011 at 8:23 pm

  6. It has been a long time since I went to the cinema, but I confess when I did I tended to procure sweeties (and then purposefullly eat all the noisy one before the actual film started). It’s the mess on the floor which always riled me. When I left I always took my rubbish away with me and threw it away.

    As for popcorn smell … for me the absolute worst smell in a cinema (or anywhere really) is a waft of perfume or deodorant. Doesn’t really have to be all that strong either. I hate it and it can be highly distracting.

    Lewis Maskell

    August 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    • I think the popcorn smell is worst in the entrance, at least on my theatres. Once in the showroom it tends to get better. But yes, strong perfume is a nuisance – and I feel especially sorry for people with allergies.

      Jessica

      August 19, 2011 at 8:24 pm

  7. How about cherry tomatoes? If you like tomatoes, that is. I eat them as snacks sometimes, the good ones are sweet and tasty.
    (My first thought when I saw the headline was the carrots, then I realized you were the source of that former discussion of snacks 🙂

    Syrien

    August 19, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    • I should add, they must be small enough that you can eat them whole – otherwise they would not comply with rules about messiness 😉

      Syrien

      August 19, 2011 at 10:44 pm

      • You have a good memory Syrien! However, carrots doesn’t work in a theatre environment, so I thought it was time for a new take on this.
        Cherry tomatoes sounds fine. There’s a very small kind, called “pearl tomatoes”, which I believe would make nice snacks for a movie. Good spotting!

        Jessica

        August 20, 2011 at 3:08 pm

  8. We have a local store that sells kolaches– soft pastries that could be sweet or savory. That would be perfect for the theater because they make no noise, no mess and they offer variety. Neither are they expensive, and because they are small (three of them would make a meal) one could be had for a snack or a few for a whole meal.

    I’d probably have a couple cheddar and sausage kolaches and then a hazelnut kolache. And if the theater could provide some mint tea or iced earl grey, that would just be awesome.

    Steve Kimes

    August 20, 2011 at 12:45 am

    • Not a bad idea. It’s like a meal, but not one that makes noises and invades the territory of your neighbour. If I was up for a very long movie I could go for that. (I see from their website that they say it’s low fat and healthy, but I wonder about that. Certainly doesn’t look like it. ;))

      It reminds me of when I as a teenager attended a film club every Saturday afternoon, two movies in a row with a short break between. I always brought wiht me a a sort of soft bread bun, covered with grated cheese. Cheap and satisfying and could keep you happy the entire day.

      Jessica

      August 20, 2011 at 3:14 pm

  9. Here’s the cafe– come and visit!

    http://www.happysparrowcafe.com/

    Steve Kimes

    August 20, 2011 at 12:46 am

  10. I really hate the butter smell from popcorn, there is no need for it on popcorn, they work fine without it and it just gives that gross smell that takes over everything. I do think that when going to the movies there need to be something to snack on, I usally have a soda and some small bag of something. I do tend to avoid high sound candy though. 🙂

    Zakesh

    August 23, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    • Usually the smell stays out in the lobby though, thankfully enough. I don’t normally suffer too badly from it in the cinema. Or there’s so much else in there to get annoyed about that take over. People talking, people coming after the movie has started, people not bothering to go to the bathroom BEFORE the show… Doh.
      It’s strange that I for some reason still prefer to watch movies at a cinema thinking of all that annoys me about it.

      Jessica

      August 23, 2011 at 4:07 pm

  11. Oh dear. I remember the days when there were curtains, queues outside the cinema, and ice-cream being sold in the aisles at the intervals…! These days I prefer going to an intimate arthouse cinema, housed in an art centre, which just happens to have a great cafe and bar. Last time we were there (a few of us celebrating a friend’s birthday with the Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec), we watched the film without snacks, came out, ordered food and cherry beers and had dinner all together. There’s something about the place, and while it can sometimes be a bit too arty and pretentious, I love the more traditional feel of the cinema there, no pick-n-mix, no popcorn, maybe a civilised beer or a coffee and cake beforehand or afterwards. I’d love more places like that, rather than the (and so often half-empty) cinema complexes.

    Alq

    August 23, 2011 at 9:54 pm

  12. I’m a fan of Craisins, m’self. Cranberries given the wrinkly raisin treatment. Yummy, great antioxidants and quiet. Vaguely greasy, I suppose, like raisins can be, but overall, they are great.

    Tesh

    August 25, 2011 at 1:51 am

  13. My snacks:

    If I go around lunch or early afternoon I usually have a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll from 7-Eleven.

    If I go in the evening I usually have nothing at all or a small paper (not plastic!) bag with loose candy. I tear of the top off of the paper bag to get to the candy easier and to minimize the sound (prassel).

    Jojjenito

    September 1, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    • Movie for lunch or early afternoons? What kind of movies do you see? The only thing that are shown in my town at that time of the day are children movies. Hm… Or wait, I guess you live in Stockholm?

      If you want your candy to sound even less you could put it in a plastic bag. Not a hard one that sounds a lot, but a soft one, like the ones you use at home. I think that makes for less noises than a paper bag, even if you tear off the top.

      Jessica

      September 1, 2011 at 7:22 pm

      • Hehe, yes, I live in Stockholm. I really like going for example on a sunday at 12, your mind is relaxed and fresh.

        Nope, I don’t like soft plastic. I want a bag that doesn’t sag, I need the bottom to be stiff and the sides need to stay upright so I can dive in with my hand. I have strict rules for this. 😉

        Jojjenito

        September 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm

  14. […] Beyond the popcorn experience – musing over cinema snacks How to pick a perfect seat in a theatre On the habit of taking notes and spitting wine – does it steal a bit of the magic? […]

  15. […] a previous post I mused over various snacks and came up with the idea of fresh blueberries. After trying it a few […]


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