Popcorn became part of the moviegoing experience beginning in the late ’20s. The cinematic staple was originally dispensed in a paper sack, the crinkling of which by inconsiderate patrons was said to drown out dialogue. Stiff, noise-dampening paper boxes replaced bags, and by the time I began going to the movies in the early ’60s popcorn was sold by the bucket.
It wasn’t until the ’70s that popcorn bags saw a return to popularity. Theatres introduced a laminated sack that wasn’t as noisy as its paper counterpart. That also put an end to greasy lap stains on your pants or skirt. And bags are easier to transport and fit snugly without spillage in the empty seat next to you. Try wedging a cylindrical tub between seatback and folded cushion.
From a consumer’s standpoint, the tub has but one advantage over the bag: an 85-oz. bucket holds just that. An inexperienced concessionaire with insufficient snap in their wrist will leave a crimp in the bag, thus robbing patrons of a good cup’s worth of overpriced, golden-delicious kernels.
Why my sudden interest in popcorn packaging? A large refillable bucket now costs less than a medium bag, but they hold the same amount of corn.
Why not just make it a large refillable bag and 86 the bucket altogether? For days the thought simmered inside my head like an uncooked kernel waiting to explode under the heat of scalding coconut oil. Then suddenly there was a pop and I was reminded of a group of local movie mooches, a cartel of multiplex barnacles who not only manage to gain admittance to every advance evening screening but also the free popcorn and soda.
The dog-faced pass-whores, the regulars, the professional freeloaders...from Fashion Valley to Mission Valley, from Arclight to Grossmont, they were all the same: men and women scrambling for the sweet seats, and only a cold day in hell would see these spendthrifts spring for concessions.
With movie attendance in a state of decline — and considering how many movies I see on the cheap — I feel it is my duty as a theatre lover to frequent the concession stand and help up the joint’s per capita. The same can’t be said of the pass-whore, who at their core are ace recyclers. One of the ringleaders would bring with him a briefcase that contained bags and cups from screenings past. He’d pass them among his minions who would make a beeline to the concession stand, demanding free refills.
For a while employees were instructed to inscribe the date of purchase in Sharpie on the bottom of the bag, but that fad didn't last more than a year. Only once did I witness it backfire. The PW in line in front of me handed the empty bag to the kid behind the counter. The movie advertised on the side was so old that it was taken out of rotation. Kudos to the eagle-eyed employee for calling out the PW.
So when it comes to refills, why do I encourage the bucket and not the bag? Simple: a bag is easier to smuggle in than a disposable pail.