It's not April Fool's Day, so this story from The Guardian must be true. A movie theater in Norwich, England, is experimenting with a no-popcorn night. Through September, the 7 p.m. screening on Tuesday will be popcorn-free.
"If it's a success, and I've no reason to suspect it won't be, we'll roll it out across all our cinemas and make it a permanent fixture," says Gabriel Swartland of Picturehouse Cinema. "People either love or hate popcorn. It makes sound business sense to cater to both these audiences."
Apparently, the no-popcorn movement has been gathering steam across Britain. I had no idea those little golden kernels were the object of so much scorn and outright hatred.
Daniel Broch, the owner of Everyman Cinema in London, who recently bought 17 other theaters, says he's going to "de-popcorn" every one of them. 'It has a disproportionate influence on the space in terms of its overwhelming smell, the cultural idea of it and the operational problems created by the mess it produces."
Nicolas Kent, artistic director of the adorably named Tricycle cinema and theatre, is even more derisive. "Popcorn is horrible stuff and I won't have it anywhere near my cinema,' he said. 'It's a form of junk food and that encourages junk entertainment. Its smell is all-pervasive, it makes huge amounts of mess, and it distracts and annoys people intensely."
The no-popcorn movement also seems tied into a desire to brand your movie palace as a more sophisticated place than the run-of-the-mill multiplex. "My ambition to make a night at the Rex a glamorous, dignified and civilised affair. People dress up to come here. It's special. Popcorn isn't," explains theater owner James Hannaway.
Frankly, I find it hard to get worked up over this issue. I used to get popcorn all the time at the movie theatre. It was just part of the experience. I always got a small size and usually polished it off before the movie began so I wouldn't be disturbing anyone. (I'm a very polite person).
I think it's different when you're at a play or musical and you're paying 10 times as much to get in and the actors' voices aren't booming all around in surround sound that would tend to drown out the sound of someone chomping away. And certainly some movies could be ruined by the sound of incessant chewing and gulping. But Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, well that's made for popcorn, Junior Mints and a super-size soda.
Popcorn, candy and soft drinks are pretty tried-and-true part of the moviegoing experience. I honestly can't say I've ever been bothered by someone eating popcorn at the movies. The smell doesn't bother me. I don't think it's nearly as messy as someone spilling a sticky, sugary soft drink on the floor or as noisy as someone opening a candy wrapper. I'm usually at a sparsely attended matinee, so I'm never sitting all that close to anyone anyway.
It's true, you can go overboard with anything. I once read a very funny book by Kevin Murphy called A Year At the Movies, where he and his family actually snuck in and ate an entire Thanksgiving dinner - turkey and everything - while watching Monsters, Inc. Ok, I like a snack now and then, but that's taking things too far.