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Omnivore Food Blog By Suzanne Podhaizer

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December 03, 2007

Food in the Movie Theater

It's not the point of this particular post, but I have some unusually strong feelings about the consumption of food in movie theaters. For example, I think that  whomever chose crisp popcorn in crinkly paper bags and candies packaged in cellophane as appropriate for consumption during heady dramas should inhabit a special place in Hades. There he should remain, encircled by Furies who nosh on loud, crunchy foods without sharing, for eternity. 

What would be better? Chocolate truffles or fudge served on quiet little plates, or maybe some Vermont cheddar cheese and baguette slices? Anything soft and chewy. I wonder how the candy/popcorn paradigm came about.

But like I said, that's not what this post, which is only tangentially food related, is about. Last night, D. and I went to see No Country for Old Men at the Roxy in Burlington. The Sunday-night audience was mostly made up of the 30-60 set. A quiet bunch; no teenagers to be seen.

When the movie ended, we stayed for the credits and everybody else streamed out of the theater. Eventually the lights came up and a youngish employee entered pulling a large trash can behind him. And it's a good thing he did, 'cause there was a big old mess for him to deal with: crumpled popcorn bags, empty water bottles, candy boxes and random bits of non-theater-related trash. Some was tucked into the cupholders between the seats, much was on the floor.

How is it that over and over each day, bunches of adults collectively decide that leaving their trash lying around a movie theater for someone else to pick up is acceptable? This particular crowd probably wouldn't drop their detritus on Church Street, nor would they do so in a restaurant. What makes a movie theater different?

In my mind, nothing. Movie theater employees deserve as much respect as anybody else. It barely takes any effort to collect ones own soda bottles and wrapped up bits of leftover chewing gum, so why don't people do it? This is beyond my comprehension.


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Lisa Crean

Thanks for articulating a particular pet peeve of mine, Suzanne. It IS incomprehensibly rude, not to mention disgusting.

An outdoor parallel: Barbarians who toss their cigarette butts everywhere--especially those who fling them out car windows. Eventually, state highways workers have to spend hundreds of hours (and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars) every spring picking up TONS of butts off VT roadsides.

Something to ponder: In these examples, why don't we connect our own laziness to the disrespect it shows others?


Excellent point Suzanne. As a former Roxy projectionist, I concur completely. It was sooooo gross picking up all that garbage. Maybe a trip to the movies is the one time people can feel free to act like slobs without reprimand?

Steve Levy

Hi Suzanne,

I'm a fan of your colunm; a dedicated foodee, but on this subject, I was wondering if you were referring to the 6:45 PM show at the Roxy that Sunday evening, which I also attended. The folks on the other side of the isle were definitely going popcorn crazy, to the extent that there rustling and chomping interfered w/ my concentration on the movie (riviting as it was). As I left my thoughts were on ways to _prohibit_ eating in the theater. So, I'm not particularly surprised that there was a spectacular mess.

It is one of those freakonomics principles. We all pay for the cleanup of the inconsiderate few - even those of us who eshew movie snacks, yet the theaters are powerless to stop the behaviour.

I'll continue to refuel before and after the film. The downtown possibilities are endless...


Lisa -- I believe that our culture doesn't stress empathy as a quality worthy of working towards, and thus, people are forgetting how to imagine themselves in one another's shoes. In my mind, this contributes to numerous problems, including indiscriminate littering.

Eva -- That's no fun :( I agree that people seem to treat the movie theater with less respect than other places, and I think it's really weird...maybe because it's dark they figure it doesn't count? The equivalent of a child closing her eyes and then insisting that she's invisible?


Hi Steve -- thanks for stopping by! I was actually at the 3:55 showing, but your description sounds similar to what I experienced: lots of chewing and rustling followed by a big mess.

Like you, I try to eat around the movie, not during. I had a mezze plate at Dobra Tea beforehand and went to Asiana House after to discuss the movie over sashimi.

Although I know that theaters make much of their money on snacks, I really wish a few would think creatively about what to offer. Fresh-baked cookies, chocolate truffles, maybe even little "tea sandwiches" would be silent and delicious (but more expensive, too).

I've never been to Waitsfield's Big Picture Theater, but they have a restaurant attached, and I'd be interested in whether or not their patrons eat less popcorn or leave less of a mess.

On another note: It would be great if you could visit the "Favorite Restaurant Dishes" post and share the dishes you like to eat when you're in town!

Cat Woodward

It may cost more, but I would gladly pony up a few extra dollars for something vaguely edible at a movie theater. I refuse to buy nachos, popcorn, and other highly processed pseudo-food.

Cathy Resmer

I love movie popcorn! And sno-caps!

And I always pick up my trash.

Unless it rolls under the seat in front of me, in which case I leave it there for the kid with the broom.

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