Hey, Tampa Bay, want some movie theater popcorn without the actual movie?

AMC plans to offer movie theater popcorn at mall kiosks and delivered at home, an expansion after a rough pandemic year for theaters.
You can smell it already, can't you?
You can smell it already, can't you? [ KEITH SRAKOCIC | AP ]
Published Nov. 24, 2021

The pandemic sure made the idea of sitting inside a dark movie theater with a bunch of strangers way less appealing than it used to be.

In those early hunker-down days, there were a million little things to miss — including movie popcorn, that buttery smell at the candy counter, that warm bucket of salt and crunch on your lap as the lights went dim and the movie trailers started.

So here’s an interesting business expansion for the second year of this pandemic: Movie theater popcorn without the movie theater.

Oh, there will still be movies, with popcorn, even with all the streaming we’ve been up to. (Witness the current new generation of Ghostbusters and Lady Gaga in that Gucci movie.) But AMC Entertainment — which according to a news release pops 50 tons of popcorn on a good day — recently announced plans to “expand its business beyond theatrical exhibition and enter the multi-billion dollar popcorn industry.”

Translation: Starting next year, stores, kiosks and counters in malls will sell fresh-made movie theater popcorn — a brand called Perfectly Popcorn, which AMC says it’s been serving in theaters for more than a century. The new stores — up to 15 in 2022 and “significantly more locations” after that —will also have movie counter candy and sodas.

AMC isn’t saying yet where they plan to open — though they’ll likely pop up in malls that don’t already have an AMC theater, according to the news release. Prices weren’t made available, either, which will be interesting, since theaters are notoriously steep when it comes to selling snacks to their captive audiences.

But wait, there’s more: AMC plans to offer fresh popcorn through home delivery services for that going-to-the-movies feel when you’re watching from your couch. Existing AMC theaters will sell popcorn “for takeout and/or pick-up.” And their microwavable version will be sold at grocery and convenience stores.

The company calls it “a natural extension” of its core movie business. It’s certainly an interesting addition to an industry to which the pandemic has not been especially kind. Theaters closed and ticket sales dropped, though movies look to be making a comeback.

Theaters weren’t the only ones figuring it out last year. Distilleries — local, and as big as Anheuser-Busch — brewed up hand sanitizer. Businesses found ways to cope, like one closed jewelry store that livestreamed a successful gem show. And with customers leery of crowded shops, enterprises large and small honed e-commerce skills to make it easier to buy online. It’s fascinating how what we’ve been through since the pandemic hit seems to have morphed consumerism down to the smallest details.

A trend story in the Wall Street Journal recently caught my eye: It seems those cordless AirPods affixed to the ears of all the coolest people might have had their moment. According to the report, celebrities and TikTokers have lately been wearing old-school, wired, cheaper ear buds connected to their phones on long white cords.

There are theories about why, but I like this one: As we carefully re-emerge back into the world, maybe subtle AirPod knobs in our ears don’t say “back off, give me space, I’m not available for close talking just yet” like our ropey old corded ear buds.

Maybe it’s just another way we’re adapting to what’s next.