If you walked into your childhood movie theatre could you remember what it was like? A static voice reverberated off the glass in front of you, as your tickets appeared through the sliver of space that divided you from the ticket desk. The door swung open bringing with it pungent, butter-filled air and high-frequency pitches from children playing Space Invaders in the arcade. Your eyes wandered about, taking in the neon glow of the other films on display, while you meticulously conspired in your head the perfect order to place at concessions. Upon arrival, you are faced with one of the toughest decisions of your impressionable childhood, “what candy do I choose?” You know full well that your favorite has never let you down, with its compatibility to popcorn fluid like that of Buzz Lightyear and Woody. But, the multicolored box of something new catches your eye, forcing you to question your allegiance. It’s a difficult choice, but a necessary one.
Movie theatres weren’t always so complex, in fact, the movie-going experience was rather simple back when convenience stores started showing nickelodeons for a staggering 5 cents. During the early iterations, viewers watched whatever film was provided and were bargained for by peanut vendors. Moviegoers were consumed by two items at once: film and food. This would evolve into what we experience in the modern day theatre, where concessions and movies go hand-in-hand.
A Sweet History of Movie Theatre Concessions:
The earliest theatres were far from theatres in the traditional sense, rather, they were simply stores converted into viewing spaces. Here, a variety of vendors wandered about the seats offering up their premier products: peanuts, popcorn, and chocolate. As movie popularity grew, so did the theatres. Year-by-year theatres popped up across the United States, each one gaudier than the prior. Yet, all of them seemed to miss a major contributor...snacks. It wasn’t until the Great Depression that theatre owners were forced to adapt and focus on concessions as the main form of revenue. During this time, moviegoers craved what are to this day, movie classics such as Raisinets, Goobers, and the coveted Baby Ruth—named after Grover Cleveland’s daughter.
This era of movies theatres experienced major changes. Owners realized that most of their revenue was being generated through the sales at the concession stands—over 50% in fact. From there, architects quickly adopted the practice of highlighting concessions as the main feature in all theatres. At the same time, the mass production of popcorn was on the rise with the prior decade’s invention of the popcorn machine—who’s founding is still fought over to this day. With the lifting of tariffs on sugar after the Depression, candy companies began to produce mass quantities of candy product after the war. In the early stages of this era, Junior Mints became popular for their famous reference toward “Junior Miss”—a radio show based on Shirley Temple. Similarly, M&Ms were increasing in popularity from the GIs who had received them in their military rations during the war.
As technology advanced at a rapid rate, movies paralleled. Films capitalized on technological innovations, like CGI, and candy was right there with it. During the early to mid-70s, Americans were enthralled with horror and sci-fi—mostly from the nationally televised coverage of serial murders and UFO sightings. Products such as Sour Patch Kids, which were originally called Mars Men, and the iconic Reeses Pieces, as featured in Steven Speilberg’s ET, were popularized in the wave of these films. It was easy to see how candy had ingrained itself into the entire movie experience.
Today, there are over 40,000 movie theatres nationwide and candy is just one of the many items featured at concession stands. Movie theatre chains and indie theatres are taking steps to enhance the concessions experience, whether it be offering full-course menus at theatres, or even permitting the consumption of alcohol. For theatres, it’s all about giving viewers the best experience possible, and the most important factor next to the movie itself, is the food.
What is the Best Movie Theatre Candy?
Remember that controversial decision you had to make back when you were a kid? The one where you had to pick which candy would join you on your movie-going adventure. Sometimes if you were lucky you’d get to pick two options, but that was rare. That decision is something that every movie maniac and film fan still struggles with today. It’s one that has puzzled all movie attendees for decades, but can be answered in a few simple steps. Here are the three key questions to picking the best candy at the movies:
- Step 1: Does the candy taste good? The hope is that you answer yes to this. If you are getting candy that tastes bad, you shouldn't be at the movies, and you need to find some better candy. Make sure that your candy tastes good to you, otherwise, it might not be worth consuming.
- Step 2: Is this candy compatible with popcorn? This step is often the most overlooked. Depending on your personal preference, you might want that perfect balance of salt to sugar. Whether that be chocolate intermixed with your popcorn or handfuls of sour candy balanced with bites of buttery goodness, it’s important to find that perfect match.
- Step 3: Does this candy bring back a wave of nostalgia? Can this candy sweep you off your feet and re-paint a moment in your candy history? Yes, this is a personal one, but when you find that perfect candy that comforts you through the drama movies, protects your during the horror films, and laughs with you during comedies, you know that is the right kind of candy for you. It’s all about reliving the experience.
Even our owners have their personal film favorites. Our owner Don leans toward Dots and Chuckles for their color variety and interesting flavors. Meanwhile, our owner Barb can’t resist mixing her popcorn with Sno-Caps and M&Ms to get that ideal mixture of sweet and salty.
Continuing the Candy Culture
The movie theatre is a catalyst for memories. For some, it was where they saw their favorite childhood movie, for others, it was the place they went on their first date, and for many its a place for escaping the reality of everyday life. Through every single film and story, candy has been the companion, connecting visual and audial adventures with taste. The movie-going experience has changed drastically from its humble beginnings in corner stores filled with popcorn and peanut vendors. Even the ways we consume movies has changed dramatically, but the candy has remained the same.
But has it ever really been about the movie you watch on the screen or the candy that you consume during the show? Maybe it’s about that one moment, the one when you bite into your favorite piece of candy and you are transported into another world even if it's just for an hour and a half.
Relive those cinematic seconds by checking out our movie theatre candy selection and entering our giveaway. Just follow @oldtimecandy on Instagram and tag your movie-going friend and your favorite candy and you could win a Movie Night Gift Bucket. Contest runs from June 21, 2019 until July 10, 2019.