The Reason Popcorn Was Almost Banned In Movie Theaters

The buttery, salty snack we've come to associate with movie-watching was nearly labeled contraband. Popcorn didn't always find favor among movie theater goers, and a committed group of U.S. senators took it upon themselves to act. 

Popcorn once carried a questionable reputation and was regarded as foodstuff from the lower class. The food was messy and loud and did little to enhance film halls. The rightful place for popcorn to be made and served was at county fairs and state carnivals, not the high-class environments movie hall business owners were trying to promote. These movie theaters resembled opera houses by design, and decorations looked like something you'd see in an actual theater more than in a movie hall. 

Seizing opportunity, street vendors set up their stations just beyond the entrances of movie theaters to sell the crunchy snack. Those headed inside to watch films would fold bags of popcorn and tuck them into pockets to sneak inside. Yet in 1949, a senator from Oregon moved to eliminate the presence of popcorn in theaters, and with the support of several other delegates, claimed that the anti-popcorn bill was put forth with the welfare of the public in mind. 

The pursuit of happiness

The proposed law attempted to ban popcorn sales throughout the country and demanded that anyone found eating popcorn in theaters be thrown out of the theater immediately. Businesses found to be selling or permitting popcorn in their theaters would be penalized with either jail time or hefty fines. The senators were convinced this was the right move.

A few days after the bill was announced, the senators in favor of the bill were greeted with bags of popcorn on their chamber desks. A newspaper ran photos of the senators munching away on their treats the very next day.

Needless to say, theater owners pushed back against the law, insisting on the ludicrousness of the proposed legislature and arguing that popcorn eating can be considered an American's pursuit of happiness. Thanks to their persistence, the bill was ultimately quashed, kernels continued to be popped, and thankfully, buttery popcorn can still be found in movie theaters throughout the United States today.