During the Great Depression, popcorn provided a cheap and easy-to-make snack for the hungry nation. The modest "candy stand" appeared outside of theaters, generally manned by a high-schooler, and started earning hundreds of dollars worth of profits. Seeing the monetary potential, theater owners then placed concession stands inside their theaters, offering a wider variety of candy choices. Popcorn, at this point, was still located only at neighboring confectioneries or wagons strategically placed outside, but finally, at the end of the 1930s, popcorn stands found their way into theater lobbies as well.
The addiction was quick. Not only did the buttery scent of popcorn permeate the theater, where waiting patrons' mouths began to water, but the snack was much less expensive than the other candy selections. During the depression, movie-goers started foregoing chocolate for the more affordable, salty bags of popped decadence. Theater owners made a mint, for they could buy the kernels in bulk, saving money and thus making their money back a hundred fold. The big boom in popcorn sales even made corn a "cash crop" for farmers!!! It was everywhere, in every theater, and by WWII it was THE movie staple, never to be topped.
With the addition of air-conditioning, the movie theater became a lavish home away from home! Comfortable temperatures, food, entertainment... What more could a saddened country in the midst of war ask for? One ticket bought you an all day seat, and soon, stopping for popcorn in the lobby before or between features became second nature.
So here we are, 70 years later, and nothing satisfies our taste-buds at movie time like ol' faithful. Next time you buy a bag, be sure to think about how such a simple thing has provided such pleasure to so many people, through good times and bad. We take it for granted, because it has solidified itself as one of our most cherished traditions, but the impact of popcorn on our culture is more complicated than we realize. So, savor the flavor of one of the things that makes the movies so much sweeter. "Let's all go to the Loooobby!"