What is the Perfect Movie Theater Snack?

William Collins, Staff Writer

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Since the opening of movie theaters after their COVID-driven hiatus, people have been flocking to the cinemas to enjoy the latest and greatest films.

The movie theater experience is certainly at the top of the list when it comes to how I spend my time when bored.

This being said, during a recent trip to the cinema to watch the new Spiderman flick, there was a man behind me that was feasting on some type of candy, unaware of the disturbance he was causing for those around him.

For the 10 minutes that he spent eating away (during which I could hardly concentrate on the Doctor Octopus scene), it got me thinking: what is the ideal movie theater food?

I think it can be broken down into about 4 boxes the delicacies need to check.

  • Noise Created
  • Price
  • Convenience to Eat
  • Pure Enjoyability

When it comes to traditional movie theater food, the hot foods are most definitely a fan favorite.

A common denominator with snacks such as hotdogs and hot pretzels is the lack of noise that they create when eaten. This, however, is not the case for nachos, which create such a fuss for those around you that it can be detrimental to the movie-going experience.

Popcorn, which has won the award for the most popular movie theater snack for 8 straight years, is a hit or miss for this category: it depends on the consumer.

For others, candy is the way to go to satisfy their hunger. No matter what kind of candy you personally prefer, it is no secret that candy with harsh plastic wrapping creates quite the commotion.

Unfortunately, this automatically disqualifies classics like Sour Patch Kids, Twizzlers, and, my personal favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

The good news is the rise of boxed candy that has entered the movie theater scene over the last couple of years. This saves M&M’s, Swedish Fish, Junior Mints, Reese’s Pieces, Mike & Ike’s, and Cookie Dough Bites, among many others.

It is no secret that movie food has extremely hefty prices. For these special circumstances, it is assumed that you are willing to burn $10.

Let’s start with breaking down the price of popcorn, the undeniable favorite of many. Cinemark and AMC, the cream-of-the-crop movie theaters, offer a Small popcorn for $6.09, a Medium for $7.09, and a Large for $8.09.

The Small has 11 cups, the Medium has 14, and the Large packs a whopping 17 cups of popped kernels.

After crunching some numbers, the Small is $.55 per cup, followed by $.51 and $.47 for the Medium and Large, respectively.

This makes the Large the most “bang for your buck” option, no matter how sick it makes you feel. As for candy, the average price for a box is $3.89. This demoralizing price range creates a fairly impactful red flag in the candy category when purchased at the cinema.

When watching a pivotal scene in a film, the last thing I want to do is to worry about opening, eating, or cleaning up the snack. A general rule of thumb is that if you cannot eat the snack without keeping your eyes on the screen, they do not belong in the theater.

It is for this reason that Milk Duds are off the table: they stick to the bottom with such a high frequency that it would be a crime to put them above something like Mike & Ike’s.

It goes without saying that Fun Dip deserves the boot because of the rigorous work it requires to get the sugar powder onto the candy stick. The other red flag that comes to mind is Air Head Extremes.

Everything from the unconventional wrapping to the mess it leaves after makes them better left on the shelves. Hard candy like Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, and M&M’s deserve recognition for their effortless nature. A quick tilt of the box into an empty hand that goes right to the mouth is the recipe for a joyful time.

At the end of the day, the biggest factor in this massive equation is the enjoyability of the snack. If it tastes good enough to the consumer, they will be willing to look past the other categories.

In terms of rating snacks, for a category so subjective, the only fair course of action is to look at the numbers. To no one’s surprise, popcorn takes the cake as the most popular, followed by Milk Duds, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, and M&M’s.

To me, the outlier in the list has to be Milk Duds: for candy so divisive in its ratings, it baffles me that they would top a classic like M&M’s and a refreshing experience that comes with Junior Mints.

In any event, there is no denying the popcorn’s clout, and for good reason. The versatility of popcorn’s varying amounts of butter that caters to the consumer’s personal preference is enough to rank it above all others. Popcorn is just about a necessity at the theater.

After a lifetime of research and intense consideration of the rubric to find the world’s most burning question, I have come to the conclusion that the perfect movie theater snack is actually a duo: a Medium popcorn ($7.09) and Reese’s Pieces from Target ($.99).

The Medium popcorn is more cost-efficient than the Small but is small enough so as to not feel sick after eating. The Reese’s Pieces choice is derived from the peanut butter brilliance that cannot be attained in the traditional chocolate cup for reasons already addressed.

In terms of where the candy is purchased from, the solution is the boxed candy aisle at Target, where $.99 options are offered across the board.

The immorality of sneaking it into the theater compared to that of pricing the same candy for 4 times the retail price justifies the action.

Together, the $8.08 meal yields a quiet, cheap (by movie theater standards), convenient, sweet-and-salty treat that makes the movie-going experience that much more formidable.

Next time you go to the movies, ask yourself: am I eating the perfect movie theater snack? If the answer is no, get a Medium popcorn, then head to Target, snag some Reese’s Pieces, come back, and enjoy the show.