Trending News
Would you believe that there was actually a time when movie theaters didn’t serve snacks to patrons? Here are the old-time movie snacks.

Do You Remember These Old-Time Movie Theater Snacks from the Past?

Would you believe that there was actually a time when movie theaters didn’t serve snacks to patrons? Although offering refreshments is a major source of revenue for theaters today, the earliest theaters either had self-employed vendors roaming the aisles or allowed patrons to bring their own food. That began to change during the Great Depression, when theater owners learned that they could prop up their revenue by renting space to outside vendors.

Today, of course, it’s just about impossible to find a theater that doesn’t serve refreshments. Money from concessions is vital for theaters, especially in the initial days after new films open. When new movies are first released, the studios that produced them claim the majority of the ticket revenue due to licensing agreements. You have probably always suspected that theaters’ markups on popcorn and soda were extremely high, but what you might not realize is that concessions may make up as much as 80 percent of a small theater’s revenue. 

As important as refreshments are for revenue, theaters are always experimenting with new offerings that have the potential to increase the amount of money earned from each customer. Nevertheless, there are some classic theater snacks from the past that you’ll never find today – usually because those things no longer exist. In other cases, some theater refreshments may have disappeared because the standards for guest conduct have changed – and that’s where we’ll begin.


Would you believe that there was actually a time when patrons smoked inside movie theaters? By the 1970s, theater owners had begun to adapt their policies in response to the fact that nonsmoking customers didn’t really want to come home from movies smelling like they’d spent the last few hours in jazz clubs. Nevertheless, it took a while for smoking in theaters to go away fully. In 1976, a national American theater chain with 650 locations banned smoking in the main screening areas while still allowing patrons to smoke in lounges. As recently as the 1990s, some theaters still allowed smoking in designated areas in states where it wasn’t prohibited by law.

Today, though, virtually all states and localities have clean air acts that forbid smoking in enclosed public spaces, and that means smoking in theaters is now a thing of the past. For those who still like to indulge, that’s one of the reasons why having a home theater is so great. We wouldn’t suggest fouling your expensive home theater furniture with the smell of stale smoke, though – grab some disposable vapes like these great options instead.

Hand-Made Candies and Chocolates

Although it might seem strange to imagine the idea of roving vendors in a movie theater today, one of the perks for moviegoers in those days was that the vendors often served foods and snacks that they had made themselves. These included hand-made candies and bonbons, locally produced pastries and more. While it may still be possible to find small batch treats at a high-end theater with more elaborate refreshments on offer, you certainly won’t find them in any theater chain.

Roasted Nuts

Another relic from the bygone days of roving vendors peddling their hand-made snacks during screenings, you’re extremely unlikely to find roasted nuts in any movie theater today even though they were once common. That’s probably due at least in part to the fact that nuts are less profitable than popcorn while also being more filling. With popcorn, on the other hand, you’re much more likely to come back for a second helping after finishing your first box. That’s important for theaters, who charge an average markup of 1,275 percent on popcorn. It’s also possible that many theaters consciously avoid serving nuts because they’re common allergens.

Tab Soda

Tab Soda was introduced by the Coca-Cola Company in 1963 as a sugar-free alternative to conventional soda, and its widespread popularity among dieters helped it to become a vending machine staple for decades. Tab experienced a brief hiccup during the 1970s due to the publication of a study that seemed to link the soda’s sweetener – saccharin – with cancer. For a while, an act of congress made it necessary for Coca-Cola to add a warning to Tab cans. The act was later repealed upon the discovery that the link between saccharin and cancer was dubious. 

Despite that setback – and a further reduction in popularity following the introduction of the much more popular Diet Coke – Tab remained available until its discontinuation in 2020. By that point, it was already rare enough that most theater vending machines had long stopped offering it.

Crystal Pepsi

Speaking of beverages that were once popular but are now discontinued, you might remember seeing Crystal Pepsi at movie theaters that were partnered with the Pepsi brand in the 1990s. Released during a time when many consumers associated clear products with purity and health, Crystal Pepsi was a caffeine-free version of Pepsi that lacked the original beverage’s caramel coloring. 

At this point, Crystal Pepsi and Tab actually crossed paths. Fearing the success of the new soda, Coca-Cola created a new competing brand called Tab Clear. Reportedly, though, Coca-Cola actually had no intention of making the Tab Clear brand a success. The Tab Clear bottle looked very much like the Crystal Pepsi bottle, which apparently fooled consumers into thinking that Crystal Pepsi was also a sugar-free beverage. Within six months of Tab Clear’s introduction, both brands were discontinued.

PB Max

Snacking and movie watching have always gone hand in hand, and that means getting a new snack into movie theaters can be a great way to ensure it’ll be noticed. That’s exactly what Mars did in a 1990 partnership with United Artists, a major theater chain with 2,500 screens across the United States. Through the partnership, movie patrons received free samples of Mars’s new PB Max candy bar. Featuring a cookie base topped with peanut butter and covered in chocolate, PB Max garnered $50 million in sales before being discontinued by Mars. Reportedly, the brand was cancelled because members of the Mars family didn’t like peanut butter.

Share via:
Sponsored Post
No Comments

Leave a Comment