Popcorn Shortage

The pandemic may not be over, but Americans are heading back to movie theaters anyway. Summer blockbusters are being released and heat waves will send people into air-conditioned theaters to enjoy thrills and chills on the big screen. There’s a fly in the ointment, though: a popcorn shortage looms.

The popcorn shortage isn’t about the popcorn itself. While growers did have to pivot during the pandemic get their popcorn ready for retail rather than theater sales, there is no shortage of the crop this year. The problem is in the glue used to make the buckets in which movie theater popcorn is served.

Supply chain disruption

You can’t use just any kind of glue for popcorn containers. It has to be a type of glue that can survive canola oil and butter (or the buttery-flavored substance taking butter’s place). It has to work in the machine, too.

What’s more, most tubs and bags for serving popcorn are made in China, where the pandemic shut down factories for a while.

What’s the solution? Some theaters have switched to other kinds of containers, such as metal or plastic tubs. They’re charging more for their popcorn, of course.

Others are scouring the internet for containers, whether at Amazon or at theaters that didn’t survive the pandemic. Other chains’ logos? Okay, they can live with that.


The price of movie theater popcorn will probably increase, but patrons may also have to switch to Junior Mints. And consumers may be incentivized to smuggle their own goodies into the theater, though homemade popcorn would be hard to smuggle. It also doesn’t provide the 1,200-calorie luxury experience of movie theater popcorn.

But what will the consequences be for the theaters? Popcorn in theaters comes with an 800% markup. The tickets for the movies are loss leaders — theater owners barely break even on them. They’re not even that valuable to consumers, now that movies are readily available everywhere, including on the phone in your pocket. Even before the pandemic, fewer people were going to the movies, and those that did went less frequently than in the past.

Without the popcorn profits, movie theaters would have a hard time keeping their doors open.

Notice that all this relies not just on the farmer who grows the corn, but also on the factory that makes the containers. And the factory that makes the containers relies on motion control systems.

When it comes to motion control systems, we think the very best motion control comes from Rexroth. That’s why we’re Rexroth specialists. If you use Rexroth drive, controls, and servos in your facility, we should be the first call you make when you need support or service. Call (479) 422-0390 for immediate assistance.

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