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Monday
Jun292015

Monday Movie Meme – What Does PRIDE Mean to You?

In honor of Pride Month, the theme for this week’s Monday Movie Meme revolves around what it means to be proud of who you are. June 28th marked the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots -- a violent, six-day standoff between members (and allies) of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities and the New York City Police Department. What is “acceptable” in terms of ones social scene hasn't changed much in America regardless of whatever sexual orientation (or race, class, gender, age, religion or political affiliation) or sub-cultures you belong to.

So, I have a lot of respect for people who are unabashedly themselves in a world that tells them their “self” is not worthy of basic civil liberties that are bestowed upon others, such as being free of harassment and prejudice, and treats them as such. Share on your blog or in the comments section, movie characters that embody what “Pride” means to you. The term itself encompasses different meanings for me including the importance of two things:

Detective Mike Lowry (played by Will Smith) in 'Bad Boys II.'Taking Pride in your Appearance

There is a scene in the action film Bad Boys II when Miami police detective Marcus Burnett and his partner Mike Lowry are on their way to retrieve an inmate who has information that would help them bust a drug operation.

After noticing Mike wearing a nice suit, Marcus sarcastically asks “are you a cop, or a model?” to which Mike rebuffs “I threw something on, I like looking good.” I believe that Mike embodies what it means to take pride in your appearance because he practices a form of self-care that makes him feel good about himself. In addition to being prompt, articulate and well-educated, Las Vegas teacher Eugene Simonet in the drama Pay It Forward is also an example of what it means to take pride in one’s appearance – his clothes and hair are always clean and neat.

Although Mr. Simonet wears sneakers with his dress pants most of the time and might not hold a candle to Mike Lowry’s fancy wardrobe selections, this strict teacher still keeps himself well put together and I believe that makes a huge difference in whether you’re able to face the outside world with confidence or not.

Hiding away in unkempt frocks may feel comfortable but showing yourself that you are worth the effort helps in being proud of who you are; it’s nice when you like what you see when you look in the mirror!

Taking Pride in your Work

One of the film festivals that I submitted my military homecoming drama Abyss: The Greatest Proposal Ever to for consideration has a rule stating that filmmakers must only submit a movie they are proud to screen and promote. Since reading this idea it has sat with me for a long time and I am coming to understand more and more how important it is to do work that you can be proud of, especially you’re putting it out into the world. Elderly librarian Brooks Hatlen in the drama Shawshank Redemption comes to mind when I think of some of the movie characters who are proud of the work they do. Although Brooks was in prison, he found purpose in delivering books to other inmates, caring for a stray bird and making it possible for prisoners to transport goods throughout the cell blocks.

Brooks Hatlen (played by James Whitmore) in 'The Shawshank Redemption.'Where pride is concerned, however, this isn't exclusive to film. It’s about being proud of your work and standing behind it, whether that be artwork, literature, music, cooking a delicious meal, planning (or hosting) a party, raising kids well, keeping a healthy and physically fit body (whatever that entails for each individual), or having a stellar job performance in the workplace.

What movies or film characters embody YOUR definition of Pride?

Friday
Jun262015

From Popcorn to Paninis: The Evolution of Movie Theater Concessions 

The snack counter at Marcus Theaters offers White Castle burgers, ice cream and more.As vaguely recall, my last in-theater dining experience involved chicken tacos that I washed down with a glass of wine (or was it rum punch? They’re pretty much the same thing, right?!). Accompanied by a friend enjoying a small bowl of mac & cheese, I watched the evening’s feature presentation while seated near people eating cheesesteaks and sipping martinis.

Those tacos were mighty tasty, yet, it’s rare for you to find me snacking on goodies from the concession stand at the multiplex. Sometimes I buy nachos or Twizzlers. On most occasions, however, I eat nothing during my trips to the cinema. Given that theaters usually make an estimated 85% profit from concession sales, accounting for nearly half of their overall profits, you can understand how much of an anomaly I am where movie snacks are concerned.

Unless you've been living in a cave, you know that the way to the industry’s survival is through moviegoers’ stomachs. Modern day theaters are even focused on gourmet level dining and offer an expanded menu to make your night out at the movies similar to a Broadway show, according to Natasha Geiling at Smithsonian. If history has taught us anything, however, it’s that popcorn may always reign supreme at concession stands in America.

Even actress and comedian Lily Singh aka Superwoman doesn’t go to theaters to watch the movie -- she goes for the “buttery popcorn,” which Rachel Friedman at Bon Appétit notes as the #1 best seller followed by soda, pretzels, nachos and hot dogs. That said, the motion picture industry’s relationship with snack food has not always been a match made in heaven. Their courtship began as a rather rocky one since the early 1900s when popcorn was being sold pretty much everywhere except at the cinema. Although this snack gained popularity at carnivals, sporting events, etc. theater owners refused to tolerate any food whatsoever inside their venues.

Harry Davis' Nickelodeon theater is featured in "The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907, Volume 1" by Charles Musser. These vaudeville theaters – showing short films in between live performances such as musicals, juggling acts, comedy and stage plays -- considered popcorn to be beneath the sophisticated impression they wanted to make on middle-class patrons. They viewed popcorn as disruptive and associated it with unruly crowds that were common at burlesque shows and nickelodeons -- makeshift storefront theaters that spread rapidly throughout the U.S. after Pittsburgh tycoon Harry Davis opened one in 1905.

Although nickelodeons did not sell food inside their theater, patrons bought snacks and drinks in from nearby candy shops, writes Friedman. Nickelodeons also allowed self-employed vendors to roam the aisles, selling popcorn and peanuts to audience members. When Hollywood introduced feature films, admission tickets started to rise and the nickelodeon theater craze phased out, as larger venues proved to be stiff competition with varied offerings in terms of new films and live shows.

Later, movie palaces came along in the 1920s; these venues had crystal chandeliers, antiques, marble-lined hallways and fancy carpets but were not built to accommodate concessions. Movie palaces lacked adequate room for a designated snack counter and they didn’t have ventilation. However, these limitations on concessions didn’t stop movie goers from smuggling Baby Ruths and other snacks in with them, according to Friedman. Street vendors would also set up popcorn machines near theaters and sell snacks. Since movie palaces were not keen on food littering their floors, Geiling says, managers hung signs outside coatrooms, requesting that patrons check their popcorn with their coats.

Built in 1925, Chicago's Uptown Theater was among the greatest movie palaces of its time. Photo courtesy of jetergaAround 1927, the advent of sound pictures aka “talkies” opened theaters up to wider audiences, since literacy no longer determined whether you could go to the movies or not. Geiling also writes that sound could muffle snacking noises, which meant talking pictures also brought more opportunities to profit from concessions…but…cinemas still wouldn’t budge on offering food to patrons.

Theaters of this era believed any potential profit was not worth the hassle of cleaning up spilled popcorn and stains from soft drinks on their expensive rugs. During the Great Depression, movie theaters had a difficult time staying in business so they started leasing lobby privileges to popcorn vendors for $1 a day. Since many cinemas didn’t have a lobby, the vendors would rent space outside in front of a theater, which gave them an opportunity to profit by selling to moviegoers as well as passersby on the street. While the industry was finally warming up to popcorn, theaters did not allow peanuts because of the messy shells. A young man named Kemmons Wilson, who dropped out of high school to support his family during the Great Depression, was among these entrepreneurial vendors who capitalized on movie concessions.

According to Filmmaker IQ and Wilson Hotel Management, LLC, he purchased a popcorn machine on credit for $50 and got permission to sell it in front of a Memphis theater. Soon, he was earning more profit than the cinema and eventually, the theater manager kicked him out. Wilson then went on to run a successful franchise of pinball machines among other ventures, hiring other people (including his wife) to work for him. He also founded the Holiday Inn hotel chain and even opened 11 movie theaters, after vowing to his mother that no one would ever take his popcorn machine away from him again.

Concessions booth at the Capawock Theater in Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of bicyclereporterA lot of movie theaters went bankrupt in the 1930s and those that remained in business did so because they started offering refreshments to their patrons.

As soon as cinemas noticed that popcorn was selling like hotcakes due to its aroma, they added popcorn machines to their lobby as well as soft drinks and candy machines while word spread about how lucrative the snack business is for the motion picture industry.

1930s theaters were more modest in design compared to movie palaces of the 20s. Cinemas of this period also incorporated space for concession stands in their layout, helping to keep snacks an integral part of the movie going experience. According to Jill Pellettieri at Slate, theater owners also offered homemade bonbons, chocolates and candy apples, in an attempt to attract highbrow customers.

In Milwaukee Movie Theaters, Larry Widen writes that Coca-Cola, which sponsored Viktor Fleming’s 1939 romantic drama Gone with the Wind, insisted that theaters offer their soda throughout the entire run of the film. During WWII, the candy industry had setbacks due to sugar shortages and rationing, as exporters such as the Philippines were unable to reach the United States. Popcorn, which was cheap to buy, flourished during this time. Overseas, M&Ms became popular among GIs who received these candies as their rations.

The Carolina Theater (turned Roger L. Stevens Center) in Winston-Salem provided a snack bar in the 1940s.When sugar returned to the U.S. after the war ended, this helped M&Ms obtain market growth and later find its place at movie theater concession stands among other new candy such as Junior Mints, Goobers and Milk Duds.

Soft drinks were also flowing and snack sales increased dramatically with movies aimed at children. Comedies brought in the highest profit from snacks while horror films generated the lowest sales, according to Andrew F. Smith in Fast Food and Junk Food: An Encyclopedia of What We love to Eat. Drive-in movie theaters, which opened after World War II, thrived as they offered luncheonettes and cafeterias. So, traditional movie theaters took a hit. 1950s art cinemas served free espresso coffee to increase ticket prices without raising operating expenses, writes Emanuel B. Halper in Shopping Center and Store Leases, Volume 2.

Skittles also made its way to the Cineplex after being imported from Europe in 1979. Soon, fast food companies wanted a piece of Hollywood’s concession stand pie. Burger King became known as the pioneer of movie tie-ins after inking a promotional deal with George Lucas’ 1977 epic adventure Star Wars. Then McDonald’s partnered with Disney and later switched to Burger King for a 10-movie deal that included films such as Aladdin, Toy Story and The Lion King. Amblin Entertainment approached Mars, Inc. in hopes of using M&Ms in Steven Spielberg’s 1982 Sci-Fi family flick E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial but they were turned down, writes Smith.

These days, moviegoers like Chlo L. can opt for a cheeseburger, Oreo milkshake and edamame at some theaters, as the concessions menu continues to get an upgrade.The producers then reached out to Hershey, which had a new candy on the block called Reeses Pieces. Both parties came to an agreement that allowed E.T. to munch on this candy in the movie, which resulted in millions of dollars in sales for Hershey, helping Reeses Pieces gain a foothold at the concession stand. While I would like to say the rest is history, my guess is this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding interesting factors that shape the snack menu offerings at theaters across the country.

So the next time you visit the multiplex, remember that food at concession stands have come a long way from its days of being hawked on sidewalks and in aisles of 5-cent nickelodeons.

Would YOU still go to the movies if concession stands were banned?

Do you like YOUR popcorn served in a bag, a bucket, or some other type of container at the cineplex?

How well do YOU think vending machines or self-service food counters would be received at movie theaters?

Popcorn & Paninis is my rolling blog series exploring how food plays a role in the motion picture industry. Have some tidbits you’d like to add or a film-meets-gastronomy topic you think should be featured in this series? Ask away!

Monday
Jun152015

Monday Movie Meme: Dear Foodies, It’s Snack Week!



On Saturday June 13th, the movie-quoting crew at Foolish Waffles solidified themselves as the best of Philly’s food truck scene. In addition to winning the Vendy Awards’ (otherwise known as the street food Oscars) top prize, they were also voted as “People’s Choice” after nearly one thousand attendees sampled their pork belly Banh mi waffle and baby liege with strawberry rhubarb and mascarpone cream.

Did you know that moviegoers would unapologetically sneak menu items from Robin Admana and Flo Gardner’s waffle truck into a theater? Given the rubbery, microwaved soft pretzel bites I once grabbed at a theater’s concession stand, I understand Vendy attendees' preference for delicious (and fresh) food over pricey, processed junk being sold at cinemas. It’s also one of the topics being explored during SNACK WEEK, a series of posts I’m writing that delves into the various factors that affect what we eat when going to the multiplex.

Today kicks off this week's series with a Monday Movie Meme theme surrounding Foodies on the big screen. Share on your blog or in the comments section, movies featuring theater concessions. This includes people eating food while at the movies, working at the concession stand or carrying snacks while being seated in a movie theater. After thinking about this topic over the last few days, here are the only two flicks I have come up with so far.

Poetic Justice

A hairstylist sends her convict boyfriend to the concessions counter at a Drive-In movie theater, to buy popcorn, “and some jujubes and some Bonbons,” before a fight breaks out in the parking lot, in this romantic drama starring Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur and Regina King.

Scream 2

A man pranks his girlfriend in the theater lobby after she buys a tub of medium popcorn without butter, and a small diet Pepsi from the concessions stand, in this mystery horror film starring Jada Pinkett, Omar Epps, Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Jamie Kennedy.

What movies have YOU seen featuring people eating, carrying or buying snacks at a theater?

What are YOUR favorite munchies at the concession stand?