Nostalgic Movie Theater Popcorn Machines and Retro Popcorn Ad Prints


About Marquee Popcorn Company

A street vendor with a Cretors & Company steam-powered popcorn machine, circa 1905.

A Brief History of
Movie Theater Popcorn

Popcorn and movies go hand in hand. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a trip to the cinema without a bucket of buttery popcorn. But have you ever wondered about the history of popcorn machines in movie theaters? Let’s take a trip back in time and explore the origins of this iconic movie snack.

Popcorn has been around for centuries and there's evidence of popcorn dating back to 3600 BCE. However, it wasn’t until the late 1800s that popcorn became a popular snack in the United States. It was sold on street corners and at fairs, and soon found its way into theaters as well. Initially, popcorn was made in small kettles or pans, and sold by vendors walking up and down the aisles of theaters. And, as hard as it is to imagine today, for a period, it was even banned by movie theater owners!

The First Commercial Popcorn Machine

In 1885, a man named Charles Cretors revolutionized the popcorn industry by inventing the first commercial popcorn machine. The machine was designed to pop corn using steam, making it faster and more efficient than the old method of popping popcorn in a pan. This invention allowed popcorn to be sold in much larger quantities, making it more accessible to moviegoers.

The Demand for Popcorn Grows

As movie theaters became more popular in the early 1900s, so did the demand for popcorn. Theaters began installing popcorn machines, and popcorn quickly became the go-to snack for moviegoers. However, it wasn’t until the Great Depression that popcorn truly became a staple of movie theater concessions. Popcorn was cheap to produce and sell, making it an affordable snack for people during tough economic times.

Colorful, High-Volume Popcorn Machines

In the 1930s, popcorn machines began to be designed specifically for movie theaters. These machines were large and could produce large quantities of popcorn quickly, making them perfect for the high demand of movie theaters. They were also designed to be attractive, with bright colors and flashy lights to draw in customers.

The Enduring Appeal of Popcorn

During World War II, sugar was rationed, making candy and other sweets scarce. Popcorn once again became a popular snack, as it was one of the few treats that was still widely available. Movie theaters continued to install popcorn machines, and by the 1950s, popcorn's enduring appeal made it an integral part of the movie theater experience.

Movie Theater Popcorn Machines for Home Theaters

While today's movie theater popcorn machines are often just counter-top units constructed of steel and glass, discerning home theater owners often prefer a classic, vintage-look popcorn machine that captures the ambiance of a bygone era and movie theater history, like those now being manufactured by Marquee Popcorn Company. Whatever your preference, one thing remains certain, popcorn and movies go hand in hand.