Making the Big Popcorn Purchase

Almost exactly three years ago, I wrote about a major life dilemma I was facing. In fact, the issue was bothering me so much that I had to ask for help. I did this by writing out all my thoughts and publishing it as a blog post so the entire world could counsel me on a tough decision. In the end, I opted not to make the investment.

In January of 2014, I wrestled around with whether I should buy a $20 tub of popcorn from my local movie theater. Living in Montana at the time, there was a Carmike Cinemas that I would frequent often. The chain offered a tub of popcorn that came with an initial price of $19.75. After the purchase was made, you could bring the tub back throughout the entire year for $3.75 refills.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn....not so much the microwave version though (photo from original popcorn blog post in 2014).

I LOVE movie theater popcorn….not so much the microwave version though (photo from original popcorn blog post in 2014).

After much deliberation and internal struggle, I decided against buying the tub. Although several factors made up my decision, the price was ultimately the one that carried the most weight and discouraged me from making the purchase.

Now fast forward to 2017 and wouldn’t you know it?! I found myself once again perplexed by another movie theater popcorn conundrum. This past Friday, Sidney and I went to our favorite theater in Myrtle Beach for “Patriots Day.” This particular theater is part of the Cinemark chain. I stepped in line to purchase our popcorn and right in front of me was another tempting deal.

For $14 I could purchase a tub of popcorn AND a giant soda, a price that these days usually passes for normal (if not a little cheaper than usual). But there was something that made the offer much, much better. Both were refillable throughout 2017! Like with Carmike, the price per refill was $3.75 on subsequent trips to the theater.

Spoiler alert...I ended up buying the soda cup and the popcorn tub. This is what they look like.

Spoiler alert…I ended up buying the soda cup and the popcorn tub. This is what they look like.

Okay, there was just one thing holding me back. At first glance, the tub of popcorn looked a little small. In fact, it really isn’t even a tub, it is a bucket. However, I reasoned that perhaps a little bit of portion control might be a good thing. Besides, the soda cup was huge, a screaming deal for only $3.75 (after the initial purchase) when your typical soft drink at the theater runs $6-$8.

I knew paying the $14 was the right thing to do. There was just one more obstacle. I had to ask the wife.

“You go ahead honey, it’s your gift card!” Sidney enthusiastically said.

It is true. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law gave me a $25 gift card to Cinemark. I earmarked the gift card specifically for concessions because I also received a couple Fandango gift cards that will cover strictly movie tickets. There was no holding me back, I made the transaction!

This leads me back to my comment about the size of the popcorn bucket. “Patriots Day” is over two hours. By the time the movie ended, we still had a little bit of popcorn remaining. The amount of corn you get in the bucket is more than enough for two people.

The Cinemark refillable popcorn/soda deal is a complete steal. While it probably won’t work for a family, it is perfect for a couple or for the movie watching fanatic who prefers going to movies alone. So far in 2017, this has been our best purchase thus far. Don’t Blink.

To Buy the Bucket of Popcorn or Not?

One of the best parts about going to the movies is the irresistible and unmistakable smell of popcorn that immediately hits you the moment you walk from outside the parking lot and into the lobby of the movie theater. That special smell gets me every single time as I always end up purchasing a bag/tub at the concession stand. It doesn’t matter if I am stuffed, I still fork over the money to eat popcorn at the movie theater every single time.

My local theater in Missoula is owned by Carmike Cinemas. This particular movie theater chain has a promotion where they sell giant buckets of popcorn that are re-useable for the full calendar year. You simply pay the price for the tub and then you are welcome to bring it back throughout the year to get refills at a discounted price each time you go to watch a movie. For someone like me, most people would say that I should definitely cash in on the deal. Even though it does make sense over the long run, the initial price turns me off.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn....not so much the microwave version though.

I LOVE movie theater popcorn….not so much the microwave version though.

Okay, ready for the price of one of these calorie-loaded, year-long bottomless popcorn tubs? Try $19.75. Want a refill on that tub? For the rest of the year you will just have to pay $3.75.

While I do thank Carmike Cinemas for saving us a quarter and saving us the shame of spending 20 bucks on popcorn, the $19.75 price tag does make me a little squeamish. Not that I haven’t squandered larger loads of money on even stupider things during my twenties but I think the fact that most times when I am tempted by the deal I am reminded that I just paid $20+ for movie tickets  and the notion of equaling that price in popcorn makes me decide against it. However, I am starting to have second thoughts.

On Friday night I went to “Lone Survivor”. While in line to get my traditional bag of popcorn I couldn’t help but notice that everyone else in line with me seemed to have the 2014 refillable buckets. I guess I had not realized the popularity of them until that night. I mean really, how could all those people be wrong? I bought a large popcorn and a soda and it come to somewhere over $14. Instead of getting my popcorn fix just for the movie that night I could have paid five dollars more (without purchasing the soda) and set myself up for discounted popcorn throughout the rest of 2014. If it was an ordinary movie I would have thought about my decision throughout the whole two hours but since “Lone Survivor” blew my socks off I forgot about it until after I walked out of the theater.

Not to be lost in this all is that it is still mid-January. If I pull the trigger and purchase the bucket now I will enjoy the benefit of $3.75 buckets of popcorn for pretty much the maximum time possible. I do plan to see a lot of movies this year.

“JUST BUY THE STUPID BUCKET!,” many of you might be yelling right now.

Well, I have concerns against it as well. Just because I can purchase something that will probably give me more for less in the long run it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the way to go. Do I really need to enjoy the largest bucket of popcorn possible at each movie I go to? At some point I should respect my body and cholesterol level. Also, living in an apartment, space is somewhat limited and I don’t know if I want to store it in one of my cupboards. Don’t get me wrong, I love the smell of fresh popcorn at the movie theater but I am not as enthusiastic about a cupboard smelling like the waiting room of a tire shop. Finally, if I can’t glue my fingers to the handle, chances are that I might forget my $19.75 bucket a time or two when I dash off to watch the latest blockbuster.

I know I am going against every journalistic principle by not taking a stand on what I am going to do but my personal jury is still out on whether I will buy the bucket or not. I will say that if forced to give a prediction, I think I will end up giving in sometime this month and purchasing it. But, if for some reason I am kept away from the theater for the rest of January I might just pass on it. One thing is for sure, you know I will keep you posted. Don’t Blink.