Beware: Movie Theaters Could Be Facing a Popcorn Shortage

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The next time you catch a movie, you may have to order Raisinets from the concession stand instead of your favorite salty snack. As Food & Wine reports, theaters across the country are bracing for a popcorn shortage.

Like many businesses, the popcorn industry has been subject to the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers struggled to sell their surplus popcorn when movie theaters were closed in 2020, and now they face the opposite problem. Following a record-breaking Memorial Day weekend at the box office, popcorn suppliers are struggling to meet demand.

Moviegoers returning to theaters isn't the only problem contributing to the shortage. Issues that are rippling through the economy—such as the rising cost of materials, a lack of truckers, and supply chain disruptions—have impacted popcorn sales.

Even if the crop itself is plentiful, sellers may find themselves unable to move the product. The scarcity of certain goods, like grease-proof paper bag liners or the glue used to seal canola oil containers, makes it difficult to process the kernels and sell them to customers. Without paper bags to hold the popcorn, some theaters are offering metal or plastic containers and charging customers extra to make up the cost.

Some people can't watch a movie without ordering popcorn, but it wasn't always the default movie theater snack. Prior to the Great Depression, cinemas avoided cheap concessions, which were seen as distracting from the film. That attitude changed in the 1930s, and since then, theaters have embraced popcorn as part of the moviegoing experience—at least when national shortages don't get in the way.

[h/t Food & Wine]