Moviegoers can be pretty critical about films, but they love their popcorn. Concessions continue to be the lion's-share of profits for the theater owner and operators and a book, Popped Culture, offers a rare social history of popcorn in America, with particular interest in movie theater popcorn.
The book, profiled in the Oct. 4 edition of The New York Times, introduces a widow named Julia Braden, who in the 1920s convinced reluctant theater owners to let her set up a popcorn stand in the lobby of a Kansas City, Mo., movie house. By 1931, she owned stands in or near four movie theaters and made more than than $14,400 a year—the equivalent of $336,000 in today's dollars.
According to the Times, today's movie theaters "reap as much as 85 percent of their profits from concession sales."
Theater owners originally cringed at the idea of customers spilling popcorn on their floors, but once they saw the money rolling in from popcorn sales, "who cared about the rugs?" reports the Times.
According to one depression-era entrepreneur, "Find a good popcorn location and build a theater around it."