Chowing Down At The Movies Can Add Up To Thousands Of Calories

Like to snack at the movies? That tub of popcorn and large soda can amount to almost a full day’s calories, two days’ worth of fat and a cup of sugars.

Our cohorts at Consumer Reports tested the largest sizes available of popcorn (with and without butter-flavored sauce), cheese nachos, pretzel pieces with cheese, and Coke or Pepsi at three of the nation’s biggest movie-theater chains: AMC, National Amusements, and Regal.

Here are some of their findings, including some nutrition nightmares for the largest possible sizes of some classic movie theater snacks.


Now compare those scary nutrition facts to the recommended daily amounts for the following:
*Calories: 2,000
*Fat: 65 grams
*Sodium: Less than 2,300 milligrams
*Sugars: There’s no recommended amount, but the American Hearth Association suggests a limit of about 6 teaspoons daily fro women and 9 for men.

So it turns out that a large tub of buttered popcorn and a large Coke can supply all the calories you need to eat in a day.

For CR’s snack-by-snack summary and other helpful tips for how best to resist a snack attack at the movies see the full report here, and grab something to snack on while watching the video below.


Edit Your Comment

  1. ToddMU03 says:

    In other news water is wet.

  2. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Buttered popcorn at movie theaters tends to leave my mouth with an odd coating that, no matter what, I can’t seem to get rid of. No matter how much soda, or water, or listerine, it’s like a coating of grease that won’t go away.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      That’s most likely the soybean oil, probably coconut depending on which brand they use. Coconut oil is the stuff they add to chocolate to make it harden up on ice cream (think dairy queen dip cones). I always had a similar feeling after eating one of those.

    • eturowski says:

      Just imagine what it does to the lining of your intestinal tract.

  3. Buckus says:

    Also, fast food is full of fat and empty calories.

  4. Cat says:

    I go to the movies once or twice a year. That’s not where my excess weight is coming from, I guarantee you.

  5. Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

    I really crave those nachos though ! Sneak in some Boddingtons & I am ready to sit through any fine quality Hollywood production that is thrown at me.

    • Cat says:

      What are these fine quality Hollywood productions of which you speak?

      • Phil Keeps It Real [Consumerist] says:

        I will take time from my busy, at work schedule to assist with your inquiry :

        The Devil Inside — After going splitsies on bottle of red with a cronie, this movie was 4 thumbs up(radiation is a terrible thing to waste). Best of it all it’s only an hour long(spoiler alert), so just when you thought this thing would drag on, BAM! It’s over, the crowd boo’s & move on with their lives!

        I have more examples but I need to get back to work.

  6. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Actually, it’s not all that bad when I look at it.

    First of all, if you want soda, but care about calories, get a diet soda. Sure, the chemicals and such aren’t good for you, but at least you don’t have calories.

    Second, I don’t think I’ve ever finished a large popcorn. Mainly because half way down the popcorn is no longer hot, and often doesn’t taste all that good. All the butter flavor tends to be toward the top as well. So you can cut those calories roughly in half (or just buy a smaller popcorn). The largest size is good if you are spliting it with someone else, which again, cuts your calories in half.

    So in theory you could have your hot buttered movie theater popcorn, and large refreshing (diet) soda, for under 500 calories. Not all that bad.

    • dourdan says:

      true. the one time i tried to finish a large buttered popcorn by myself i ended up vomiting the moment i got home.
      so yes- a large is good for 2 or more people ONLY.

      but i loove buttered popcorn and i get it every time i go to the movies (med popcorn and large soda!) Much like smokers who have to look at lung cancer ads- I don’t care if it’s bad for me- it makes me happy.

  7. crispyduck13 says:

    Need a really easy tip for how best to resist a snack attack at the movies? Bring money for tickets and no more, or leave your wallet in your car. Or how about not going to the movies hungry? Or think about what else that $30+ would buy you elsewhere. I’m also a firm believer in sneaking-food-in-ology, so there’s that.

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      I’m all for the theater-not-paying-its-employees-ology as well!

      • Spaghettius! says:

        I know the snacks are expensive because the theater makes very little money from ticket sales. But…if the snacks cost a little less, I bet many more people would buy them. Step 2. ??? Step 3. Profit. Until then, there’s a 7-11 conveniently a block from my theater.

        Of course, if more people bought more snacks, we’d get more fat. It’s a no win.

        • gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

          I work at a theater, (independent chain, 42 screens total) and I’ve been pushing for lower concession prices, and make more money from more sales, plus more people coming to our theater for cheaper concessions. I have been repeatedly told by the higher-ups that I’m a moron and have no clue how the business works. (They also refuse to get Coke 0 because “people prefer Diet Coke, or just get regular Coke anyway”)

          • ElBobulo says:

            A concession stand does not sell “concessions”. The word “concession” refers to a contract between a vendor and the owner of the venue.

  8. Coffee says:

    Throw in the calories in a flask of whiskey and you’re really getting a high calorie count. Good thing I burn off a lot of the calories engaging in fisticuffs with unruly texters, baby bringers, vagabonds, and whatnot.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      We should go to the movies together, then we can fight back-to-back and wipe them all out, hopefully during the commercials and previews.

  9. twritersf says:

    First of all, to call popcorn in most theater chains “buttered” is just flat out dishonest. I know AMC and I think Regal all use “buttery flavoring,” which is just oil, often rancid tasting, and usually not very “buttery.”

    Second, I don’t know about the listed chains, but at Cinemark (which still uses real butter, thank you very much), the “large” and the “medium” popcorn are actually the same volume. The only difference: you can get the “large” refilled.

    Finally, without knowing the volume/weight of the popcorn and the ounces in the drinks, it’s hard to compare to the “real” world.

  10. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    They should stop calling it “buttered” popcorn.

    Having worked in the movie theatre, I can tell you what comes out of the butter dispensers comes in a jug, is violently yellow and is not, in any way shape or form BUTTER.

  11. Straspey says:

    “…and other helpful tips for how best to resist a snack attack at the movies…”

    Wait – I have an idea…

    Before you go to the movies, eat a complete, filling and healthy meal somewhere else.

    You will have just eaten, so you won’t be hungry — and if you’ve just had a really terrific meal, that smell of salty, overly-buttered popcorn and nachos will not be very appealing or tempting.

  12. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Largest Possible Size

    How many frickin people can eat the largest possible size by themselves at a theatre??????

    The few times we go as a 4 person family we barely eat one step up from the small. If you can eat the largest by yourself, there are many other problems in your diet.

    And I agree, that dairy flavored grease is disgusting.

  13. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    Largest Possible Size

    How many frickin people can eat the largest possible size by themselves at a theatre??????

    The few times we go as a 4 person family we barely eat one step up from the small. If you can eat the largest by yourself, there are many other problems in your diet.

    And I agree, that dairy flavored grease is disgusting.

  14. dolemite says:

    I don’t like chowing down at the movies because the movie itself is expensive enough without paying $15 for some .25 popcorn and .10 soda.

    We usually go out to eat before the movie, so you don’t want to snack (and I can justify $15 for a steak meal.)

  15. Extended-Warranty says:

    Thousands of calories and dollars

  16. Cicadymn says:

    I’m surprised anyone an afford movie theater snacks. Have you seen those prices lately!

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Yes, building upkeep and employee pay should be docked so you can afford snacks!

      • Cicadymn says:

        Well that would explain why the places and chairs are all in such terrible conditions and the staff is so rude. I don’t buy snacks! So I guess by your logic they just won’t get paid!

        It’s simple economics, if the prices were more affordable more people would spend money on them. With ticket prices constantly rising and the addition of 3D in pretty much everything tacking on more expense to tickets. They’re not only driving people away from snacks but also from theaters period.

        We used to always get snacks, but then the snacks kept rising faster than gas prices, but that was no big deal because the theater only cost $5. Now the price is $8-10, per ticket, the seats are all broken and uncomfortable and the snack prices are through the roof with smaller portions than ever before. We just don’t even go anymore, it’s too much money to spend.

        ProTips: Raising prices won’t guarantee a raise in revenue.

        • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

          You do realize that the theater doesn’t receive but pocket change from your admission cost, right? So by complaining about the state of the building and then NOT buying snacks, you’re making it worse.

          They don’t set the ticket prices, studios do. Blame them. The only way the place turns a profit, can pay employees and keep the place from falling in around your ears is by selling snack food at ridiculous markup.

          • HogwartsProfessor says:

            You’re not obligated to buy snacks when you go to a movie. I usually eat first or afterward and if I’m going to buy something, I get the kiddie tray to save calories (and money).

            AND YES THERE IS CANDY IN MY PURSE SOMETIMES. But then, there is sometimes anyway.

  17. lehrdude says:

    Shoot…Now I’m gonna be singing, “Let’s go out to the movies….” all day!

  18. borgia says:

    One of the scarier things to me is the lung problems that the factory workers at the “butter” flavoring factories started to have.

  19. pk says:

    WHAT????? Movie theater food is unhealthy???? next you’ll be telling me that I’m paying way too much for it too.

  20. IrwinJacobs says:

    Consumer Reports knows their stuff when it comes to toasters and cars but when it comes to nutrition, they’re hopelessly lost.

    They use the term “fat” as if there was only one kind of fat and it’s all bad, completely ignoring that buttered popcorn is an entirely different nutritional entity than nasty, soybean-based industrial oils that are nothing more than liquid omega-6 fatty acids.

    The “sugar” column is blank for popcorn, as if there’s nothing related to sugar in popcorn. What do you think happens to the popcorn when you eat it? Buy a glucose meter and see. It has nothing to do with calories.

    Salt is irrelevant to 99.9% of the people out there.

  21. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    I will not be satisfied until it’s 1 MILLION Calories!

  22. NotEd says:

    I know all of this and I still jones for popcorn at the movie.
    Hell I worked in a movie theter when I was in high school and I still get popcorn at the movies.
    Now nachos if the cheese doesn’t come in the tiny, indiviual cup? No way. My memory of the nasty cheese goop that came out of the heated pump behind the concession stand ruined that treat for me.

  23. BradenR says:

    The calories are where the profits are for theater owners. Popcorn is a great snack at home as long as you avoid the microwave type with all the added grease and toxins. Be really frugal, make your own microwave popcorn. One brown paper lunch bag, no coatings, 1/4 cup of your favorite popcorn, 2 minutes in the microwave May vary per microwave. Pour into a bowl, lightly salt spray with butter spray or the real stuff. Cheap.

  24. BradenR says:

    Save the popcorn for home movies and add up the savings. DO NOT use the microwave popcorn loaded with chemicals (got to keep the sacks from burning) and fake flavoring. One brown paper lunch bag, one quarter cup of your favorite popcorn, 2 minutes (more or less) in your microwave. Pour into a bowl salt lightly add butter or butter spray.

  25. alexwade says:

    I always avoid the snack bar at the movies. If I get something to eat, I get thirsty and have to get something to drink. If I have to get something to drink, I have to pee. If I have to pee, I miss part of the movie. I only go to the movies when there is a movie that I really want to see and can’t wait. So if I really want to see a movie, I will do what I can to avoid missing any of the movie. So that adds even more motivation to avoid the snack bar.

  26. Gertie says:

    Considering we attend movies 2-3 times a year, this isn’t exactly a big deal. If people were to attend movies weekly, yeah. It would be significant.

  27. aleck says:

    Captain Obvious is back blogging….