Popcorn’s road to fame
If you have to say the most iconic movie snack, many people will think of popcorn. The connection between popcorn and movies actually began about 100 years ago. When popcorn was first sold in theaters, it quickly became a popular trend. Speaking of popcorn, let’s start with corn. Corn was domesticate about 9,000 years ago. And in 2012, archaeologists unearthed the earliest evidence of pop corn in Peru. Early popcorn may have resembled charred corn and was usually make by cooking dry corn kernels in a skillet.
The fluffy popcorn we are familiar with today comes from a hybrid of several different varieties of corn carefully cultivated over thousands of years, and the ideal kernels should have a water content of about 14 percent. When the kernels are heat, the water expands and eventually pops into delicious popcorn. The birthplace of modern pop corn was in the United States. Early American colonists learned to grow and cultivate corn, which remained a staple food for hundreds of thousands of Americans for centuries to come.
In the mid-19th century, corn was an important cash crop in the Midwest of the United States, known as “prairie gold.” At first, popcorn was made by placing corn kernels in a jar and heating them to pop. By the early 19th century, popcorn had seen a series of innovations.
At that time, a man named Frederick Myers in Kentucky applied for a patent for a popcorn machine. And later a man named Charles Kratos invented an electric popcorn machine. And a few years later, Charles improved the popcorn machine. It wasn’t long before popcorn was commercially produced. Next, the decoration and flavor of popcorn also become rich. In 1892, a Utah man named James applied for a patent for a machine that wrap fresh popcorn in syrup. So that the popcorn could be packaged or boxed to better preserve the popcorn. Frederik and Lewis Ruckheim from Germany started selling small portions of popcorn made with a handheld pop corn machine. By 1896, they had invented a combination snack called Cracker Jack, consisting of crunchy popcorn and salted peanuts coated in molasses.
Popcorn became a popular snack
The 20th century also saw an increase in popcorn-related patents, which improved either the device or the product itself. Popcorn has also become a popular snack, appearing mainly at street fairs, sporting events, and festivals. There wasn’t a movie theater yet. Between 1920 and 1930, the first wave of 20,000 theaters opened in the United States. And the film industry boomed, with weekly moviegoers in the United States reaching 25 million by 1925. But cinemas at that time were “high-end”, many of them mimicking the halls of big theatres with expensive blankets, and most banned snacks and sodas.
It was not until the end of the 1920s that sound effects and music were introduced in movies, and the film industry saw a huge boom. In 1930, weekly movie-going in the United States soared to 90 million, ushering in the golden age of cinema. But the industry has been shaken up by the replacement of silent films with talkies. Unable to afford the new technology, some small or rural cinemas have closed. And those that have survived have gone off the high road. Popcorn and soda have appeared in movie theaters.
Popcorn and cinema
With the onset of the Great Depression, the pressure on movie theaters grew. Millions of Americans are facing an economic crisis, and popcorn, which costs only 10 cents a bag, is an affordable luxury. Cinemas have succumbed to the need to make ends meet and have begun renting out parts of their halls to popcorn and other snack vendors. It is said that at that time, there were street vendors who accumulated huge fortunes by selling popcorn. At that time, a farmer in Oklahoma used the money from selling pop corn to buy back three farms. And a chain of stores selling popcorn avoided bankruptcy.
Movie theaters saw the opportunity and began selling popcorn themselves, even lowering ticket prices to encourage customers to spend their money on other things — like popcorn. The tradition continues today, with some cinemas claiming steep ticket price cuts. But their popcorn prices have increased by 800% to 1500%. Popcorn machines have gradually become a fixture in movie halls, which has led many people to smell the aroma of popcorn and think of watching movies.
By the 1940s, Americans were watching television, and popcorn was being sold to those home audiences. Flash forward to the 1980s, when microwave ovens became ubiquitous in American kitchens. This coincide with a fitness boom, and pop corn was consider a relatively healthy snack. In 1981, microwave popcorn was born. In just two years, microwave popcorn was reportedly available nationwide, with sales reaching $53 million. By 1984, packaged microwave popcorn was on store shelves, and sales were climbing again. “Natural butter flavoring,” which contains dairy products (including butter) and two chemicals (diacetyl and acetone), is put in oil to flavor microwave popcorn.
A 2008 study linked diacetyl, used in margarine flavorings, to Alzheimer’s disease and lung damage, while microwave-heated bags line with perfluorooctanoic acid were link to a condition known as “popcorn lung,” caused by a respiratory illness contracted by workers in microwave popcorn factories. Health concerns and changing lifestyle habits have led to a smaller increase in microwave popcorn sales, while sales of some pre-popped popcorn grew 12 percent in 2013 alone, to nearly $672 million. That’s how pre-popped popcorn became popular.
Mixed flavored popcorn
Since then, popcorn flavors have become more and more innovative, and the most popular popcorn is no longer the traditional butter popcorn or salt popcorn, but a combination of cheese, chocolate or nutritional yeast. In any case, Americans are use to popcorn, which is cheap and easy to make. Just a few kernels, some oil, and a few minutes on the stove can get delicious popcorn. Outside the United States, popcorn is also popular in its way, some people think its raw materials are healthy, others think it is junk food, but those who like it still like it, and those who don’t like it are staying away.