snack bar and popcorn machine

Snack Bar at the Paramount, 1950s

In the early years of the nickelodeons, it had been both common and accepted for patrons to buy popcorn from small carts on the streets and bring the food in with them. Some theatres even permitted vendors to wander the aisles hawking their products.

Then, the Great Depression threatened the movie industry to its foundations. To counter this, theatres started charging sellers a fee or installing vending machines for candy. Managers realized that the real way to make money was to sell directly to their consumers, and they introduced snack bars in theatre lobbies nationwide.

It was popcorn though, not candy, that saved them from shutting their doors. Popcorn was inexpensive, easy to store, delicious, and tremendously popular. Suddenly, picture houses were back in business and business was booming!

By mid-century, candy made a comeback. Dots, Junior Mints and other chocolate delicacies found their way onto snack bar shelves. The star of the show though, were M&M’s, which had been Included in WWII rations and were a favorite with returning GIs.

A “candy girl” is seen here minding the concession stand at the Paramount Theatre. Many of popular snacks of the period can be seen including Eskimo Bars, Hood Ice Cream, Forst’s hotdogs, “Icebergs”, and Buttercup popcorn. Coca-Cola products are offered for sale in a vending machine.

CM 2019.5.15