With Movie Theater Attendance Way Down, How Are Popcorn Farmers Coping?

2020 has been a trying year for many businesses

Popcorn, before the popping.

When it comes to going to the movies, 2020 has been a year like none before it. Whether the ways the year has changed moviegoing routines are temporary or permanent remains to be seen. But even if 2021 sees a return to something more familiar, the issues raised so far this year have had a serious impact on all parts of the theatrical ecosystem.

A new article by Laura Reiley at The Washington Post explores one facet of these ecosystems: the popcorn farmers who have had to deal with a significant decrease in demand for their product from theaters across the country. It’s not that popcorn consumption itself is down — microwave popcorn is having a banner year, Reiley reports. The popcorn companies that sell to movie theaters (and other event producers) operate with a very different business model — and it’s one that’s being pushed to its limit.

The article focuses on the Nebraska-based company Preferred Popcorn, which has spent part of the year dealing with a surplus of kernels. They’ve also begun working with the company Misfits Market to find new takers for their popcorn — something that’s worked out well for both companies.

How much popcorn was involved? Reiley writes that Misfits Market had, as of June of this year, purchased 40,000 pounds of popcorn kernels. Kernels can, Reiley notes, stay in storage for up to a year; any longer and it gets too dry to properly pop. It’s another reminder of the things we may take for granted when it comes to food, from snacks to fine dining — and how much pressure those industries can be under.

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