' ' Cinema Romantico: What The People Want?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What The People Want?

Back in the day at Cobblestone 9 Theaters of modish Urbandale, Iowa I could sling popcorn like nobody's business. The whole lot of us could, we made like Doc Holliday with those popcorn scoops, lemme tell ya, and the Westwood 6 were the Clantons - a bunch of uppity punks who only thought they could play the game. That's why the Westwood 6 is now a trendy, hipster-doofus club and the Cobblestone 9, beaten down but defiant and proud, still stands.

Oh, how I miss that concession stand. The summer of '97. We were a force with which to be reckoned. We were the '95 Cornhuskers, the '96 Bulls, The Mod Squad with vests & bowties. We faced down the $92 million "Lost World: Jurassic Park" opening weekend (then a record) like it was a Wednesday matinee of "Black Dog" and "Major League: Back to the Minors". Those three months were the only time in my life when I have woken up and actively wanted to go to work. I mean, how often do you and 15 other people have a choreographed break dance to the "Men In Black" theme song ("see my noisy cricket get wicked on ya'!").

The majority of the lot of us, as I recall, spent our 15 minute concession reprives indulging in both inane, life-and-death banter and eating popcorn. We all knew just how bad movie theater popcorn was for a person's health, of course, but we didn't care. We ate it once, twice a day, maybe more. Once I hauled a humongous bag of popcorn to my best friend's house and instantly became the hit of the party as people cast aside their adult beverages for just a few kernels of buttery goodness. Movie theater popcorn is a do or die situation and we were invincible!!!

It has been a mighty long time since I have eaten movie theater popcorn. In fact, I can pinpoint precisely the last time it happened - the matinee showing of "King Kong" back in December '05 the afternoon it opened. It was such a Hollywood event I just felt like I had to have movie theater popcorn to accompany it. I haven't touched it since. It's not even that hard. I see a concession stand and I just (gasp!) walk right past it. Nothing else!

Apparently this is a good thing because according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest is (gasp!) bad for you. It "contains 1,610 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat" or, to say it another way, "the equivalent of three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with 12 pats of butter." Egads! How did all those people this summer live through showings of "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" without keeling over?

So why do people keep eating it? Greg Dunn, president and chief operating officer of Regal Entertainment Group, had this to say: "The alternative choices were not well received by our theater guests. Based on sales and feedback from our patrons, we offer a selection of concession items that reflect the preferences of our customers." So basically movie theater chains are - wait for it! - giving the people what they want! The most overused cinema idiom of 'em all has now come to the concession stand!

Not that I want to deny the people what they want. Some people want "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and an Arctic oil rig sized bucket of popcorn, some people (me) want "The Merry Gentleman" and a nice plastic cup of Sam Adams. (Why do you think Europeans are so frickin' skinny? They're at the theater drinking Budvar while we're eating popcorn and Milk Duds.)

Oh, I'm not an idiot. I realize people's love of movie theater popcorn is one of the very reasons I was allowed to have the greatest working summer of my life. Concessions are the lifeblood of our movie theaters. Most of that ticket money goes back to the studios so they can, you know, make sure "Avatar" gets financed. Most people also do not attend as many movies as I do. Like the aforementioned Mr. Dunn so astutely notes: "Theater popcorn and movie snacks are viewed as a treat and not intended to be part of a regular diet."

But just remember you do have the choice to see the concession stand and just walk on by. You also have the choice to eat whatever the hell you want. I could just walk on by the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie at Potbelly's every time I stop there for lunch but....I never ever ever ever ever do.

Also, and most importantly, speaking for the many concessionists and ushers who have to clean up your mess, you have the choice, once finishing your 1,610 calories, to pick up your own popcorn bag once the movie has concluded, carry it with you twenty steps to a garbage can and throw it away. I'm just sayin'.


Wretched Genius said...

But Nick, if people had always picked up their popcorn and thrown it away after the movie, we would have been denied all of those glorious theater cleaning antics. The MiB dance would never have existed.

Nick Prigge said...

Well, I'll be. Excellent point. Ignore my pleas, theater-goers, and go forth and spill popcorn.

Johnson said...

My dog likes pop-corn more that I do, especially MOVIE THEATRE butter! http://www.johnsonsdogwash.com