What’s going to a movie without some popcorn and a Coke or Pepsi? They kind of go hand-in-hand, right? Depending on your age, you might remember a time that they didn’t. In fact, movie theaters didn’t offer concessions initially. Theaters were designed more like live-production venues with velvet seats, marble columns, plush carpets, and ornate embellishments. Many had organs or pianos down front. I remember the downtown theater where I grew up had a beautiful pipe organ that lifted from under the floor to entertain moviegoers until the start of the film. Once the organ started descending, everyone settled down for the movie.
Over time, movie theater owners saw the value in offering snacks, versus the practice of independent vendors selling them or patrons sneaking them in. And, the options have certainly expanded. Top snacks in rank order are popcorn, sodas, pretzels, nachos, and hot dogs. Some theaters now offer a gourmet experience including wines and beer that you can even order ahead for pickup or delivery to your movie seat. Or, you can opt to buy that big popcorn bucket that gets refilled for a nominal cost on each visit after that.
Popcorn used to cost five to ten cents a bag in bygone days; since then, the price, factoring inflation, has risen an estimated 600%. Sugar rationing during World War II had an impact on candy production and likely identified popcorn more as movie food. Boxed candies are popular options, like Junior Mints, M&Ms, chocolate-covered almonds (my favorite), or gummy bears in those little boxes that are supposed to last through the movie, but are mostly eaten by the time all the previews are over.
So, while we’re chowing down on salted, buttery popcorn, candy, and sodas, what do moviegoers around the world eat? I’m glad you asked!
In Moscow, a movie experience can include a full lunch or dinner option, along with beluga caviar.
In India, you may enjoy samosas—a fried turnover with a variety of fillings, including mashed potatoes and peas. Sounds pretty tasty.
In Colombia, have a bag of crispy fried ants.
Korean moviegoers may have dried cuttlefish (considered as common as peanuts are in the US), plus popcorn.
Speaking of popcorn, folks in Great Britain prefer theirs sweet rather than salty.
In the summer, Greek open-air theaters offer souvlaki.
Have some Iwashi Senbei (dried sardines baked in soy sauce and sugar, sprinkled with sesame seeds and eaten whole) at a Japanese theater.
In the Netherlands, salted black licorice is the moviegoer’s choice.
Have some fish cakes (usually cod) at the movies in Barbados.
In China, enjoy a bag of salted dried plums known as umeboshi. These are also popular in Japan.
Hong Kong moviegoers enjoy curry fish balls or perhaps shrimp and pork dumplings (sui mai).
In Norway, have some reindeer jerky.
It’s interesting that many international movie-type foods seem far less sugary than what we typically enjoy at the movies. Most sound like something we might have for lunch or dinner (except for the fried ants).
Popcorn and a soft drink with a movie that you’ve wanted to see…enjoy!