A night at the movies can become a Food Adventure. Envision your buttery fingers reaching again and again into a bag of addicting theater popcorn. They charge outrageous prices for it, yet still will buy it. The Food Adventures Crew took a moment from munching on kernels and reaching for the giant soft drink, to ask : “Why is movie theater popcorn so good?”
We never do things half-baked, so we scoured the 6 major cinemas in the Dayton area to get to the bottom of this mystery. Our investigation took us to the popcorn making experts at The Neon Movies, Danbarry Dollar Saver, Regal Cinemas , Cinemark/Rave Cinemas , and Cinepolis Cinemas. Our findings lead us to some differing opinions.
THE NEON MOVIES
Let’s start with a local icon, The Neon Movies’ explanation of why their popcorn is so good. They say the secret is in the canola oil. Popping in canola oil allows for a clean taste and it is a healthier alternative to other oils. Also, The Neon Movies pops their popcorn right before showtimes. They feel this gives them a freshness advantage over other theaters and produces a tastier treat. The prices are cheaper too ! The popcorn here is delicious, and served in round cups or buckets. There is more here than just popcorn. This Food Adventure minded theater, also serves beer, Esther Price chocolates, and specialty coffees. If you have not visited the locally owned Neon Movies, get downtown to the corner of 5th and Stone streets, grab some corn and watch an award-winning movie.
DANBARRY DOLLAR CINEMAS
Danbarry Cinemas also pops their popcorn in canola oil. But Danbarry’s management feels the secret is in the buttery topping. The staff uses these buttery topping machines to shower a glistening coating onto moviegoers’ popcorn. Definitely something you don’t have at home. This dollar saver theater near the Dayton Mall has great popcorn and even better movie prices. Their “Bargain Tuesdays” offer tickets at the insane low price of $1.75 . Any other day, admission is $3. Sure the movies are a few weeks older than the ones at other cinemas, but what a deal! Also, don’t forget to take advantage of free refills of any large popcorn or large soft drink.
Regal Cinemas had another take on the mystery. Their
local management said the secret is the use of coconut/canola popping oil combo. No other cinemas use this combination. They claim this mix of oil gives a base flavor that is unmatched anywhere else. They also say their particular brand of buttery topping is key. It is different from anything one would use at home or in any other cinema for that matter. Regal’s employees also felt the “butter salt” adds a great finish to the masterpiece in a bag. These cinemas, located near the Fairfield Commons Mall, feature tiered stadium seating in a 20 theater complex. What a great way to enjoy a huge bag of popped goodness. Again, go large and get free refills!
Cinemark /Rave Cinemas on Mall Woods Drive and at The Greene would tell you the secret is how they cook the popcorn. Rave actually cooks their popcorn in an oil and butter salt mixture. This unique method is what they claim gives their popcorn a tremendous flavor. The reasoning is, that by adding the buttery salt to the oil before popping, the seasoning ends up perfect. So at Rave, it is all in the preparation. Rave is yet another cinema that offers free refills for any large popcorn or large drink purchase. So make sure you share as it helps keep your cost down and money in your pocket. Also worth mentioning is the “self serve” flavored salt station. There is also a “self serve” buttery topping machine at Rave Cinemas. Some patrons practically use this as a drinking fountain before kicking back in the huge “lounge chair like sofas.”
Austin Landing is the home to Cinepolis Cinemas. The “new kid” on the block, we were interested in their take on why their popcorn is so good. The manager claims its the style of preparation. He says other companies dont do this, but Cinepolis makes sure the oil is screaming hot before they add the popcorn. The oil is always heated beforehand and it is all about timing. He says also the dumping of the popcorn at the right time ensures no burnt kernels. They claim this leaves very minimal burnt kernels in their popcorn. They say this helps Cinepolis have more popped kernels than other cinemas by following those two rules: hot oil and timing of the popcorn leaving the kettle and being dumped into the display/bagging area. You didn’t think popcorn could be so complicated, did you ? They even offer flavored popcorns!
We were surprised to find that the secret is NOT the type of popcorn cinemas use. We were also surprised that the secret is NOT the popping machine itself. Why does movie theater popcorn taste so good? It seems the style of preparation, particularly THE OIL and SEASONINGS is the answer to this mystery. Each theater not only had an answer for why theater popcorn was so good, but they also answered why their particular product was better than other cinemas. So next time you you are at a movie, grabbing a handful of buttery popcorn dashed with salt, share the mystery with your seated friend. Smile as you reach for a swig of soda to wash it all down. You may not know the ending of the movie, but you know the origins of that great popcorn taste.