For most of us, popcorn is synonymous with movie theaters. We go to the movies, buy a popcorn, and enjoy the show without even thinking twice about it. But popcorn wasn’t always the go to movie snack. In fact, this little thing was actually banned. So, how did popcorn go from being banned to saving movie theaters?
Popcorn started in South America where people were popping maize over 8,000 years ago. Back then though, the popping of it was actually the entertainment itself. It’s said that North Americans went to Chile on business, found varieties of the popcorn, thought they were cute, and brought them back to New England in the 1800s. Popcorn quite literally popped into the scene and thanks to the creation of the mobile steam powered popcorn maker by Charles Cretors in 1893, you could find the snack almost anywhere.
Sporting events, circuses, fairs, but just not at the theaters. Theaters wanted nothing to do with the snack since they were focused on keeping a luxurious aesthetic. In April of 1896, the first public projection of a motion picture came using Thomas Edison’s Vitascope in New York City. By 1902, the electric theater was built and became the first permanent structure just for films. The cinema was an experience. It was an art meant for wealthy, well-educated people and that meant no snacks.
This was before Talkies existed. When literacy was a necessity to be able to read the words on screen, the loud crunching and chewing of popcorn would have been a distraction from reading the subtitles, and the theater owners didn’t want their beautiful rugs and carpets ruined from the inevitable droppings of snacks into the aisles. But in 1927, after the release of The Jazz Singer which was the first feature length film with synchronized dialogue, silent films disappeared virtually overnight and the doors opened up for everyone to be able to come and enjoy the experience. Whether you could read or not.