There Could Be a Movie Theater Popcorn Shortage in Our Future

Summer blockbuster season might be missing one essential snack.

Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock
Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock

Never in my life did I think I would be typing a sentence that included the words "United States," "corn," and "shortage." This country has built a corn empire that sparked a shift in American diets. And yet, experts believe that we are looming on the horizon of a popcorn shortage at movie theaters in the United States.

According to the Wall Street Journal, popcorn might be hard to come by this summer, as pesky supply chain issues continue to disrupt so many parts of daily life. "Popcorn supply will be tight," Norm Krug, the chief executive of Preferred Popcorn, which gets corn kernels from farms to theaters, told WSJ. But, it's not necessarily just a corn problem.

It’s a corn/container/shipping/supply/demand issue. Some farmers are reluctant to keep growing corn, and people like Krug are trying to incentivize growing it with higher payment. That means there is a possibility that there might be less corn produced compared to previous years. Another part of the problem is that keeping the paper containers used to serve popcorn and other movie theater staples in stock is somewhat impossible.

There are reports of theaters scouring sites like Amazon, purchasing movie theaters that have gone out of business, and even using more expensive materials like plastic and metal to alleviate the stress of these shortages. This lack of containers and delays in getting items like soda flavors and candies stocked quickly would be enough on its own. In a world where people are tending to spend more and go all-in after movie theaters were mainly off-limits during the pandemic, it's a logistical nightmare.

It might become less of a behind-the-counter issue as a summer blockbuster season kicks off with promising numbers. Customers may start feeling the effects as more and more people make their way back to the theaters. So, temper your expectations a bit, and maybe consider being open to some alternative snacks for all your summer flicks. At the very least, know that you might be seeing even higher prices than usual at the concession stand. 

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.