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Has Popcorn Always Been a Popular Snack at the Movies?

The fancy movie palaces of the early 1920s didn’t want to be associated with the low-brow nickelodeons of the day. In an attempt to emulate traditional theaters and opera houses, early 20th-century cinemas beckoned sophisticated, wealthy patrons with grand lobbies furnished with lush carpeting and crystal chandeliers. This was no place for popcorn, then considered to be a poor man’s snack that was usually sold from vendors on the street. However, with the advent of "talkies" in the late 1920s, cinemas began to reach out to wider audiences, as this represented an opportunity for bigger profits. And soon after, the Great Depression forced cinema owners to find new ways to bring in customers, so popcorn began to be sold inside the movie theaters, where it has remained ever since.

Putting the pop in corn:

  • Popcorn may be America’s oldest snack food. Evidence of it was reportedly found in a cave in western New Mexico dating back to 3600 BC.

  • The snack is believed to have made its way to North America from Chile as early as 1820, then known as Valparaiso corn.

  • At the 1893 World’s Columbian Expo in Chicago, inventor Charles Cretors introduced the first mobile popcorn machine. A simple steam engine popped corn in a mixture of butter and lard.

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More Info: Smithsonian magazine

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