Popcorn Supply Shortage Could Eat Into Summer Movie Concession Profits

What would a movie theater be without popcorn? We may find out this summer, as tightening supply and other issues in the chain are making it tough for cinemas to keep popcorn and other concession supplies stocked, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

“Popcorn supply will be tight,” Norm Krug, CEO of supplier Preferred Popcorn, said at CinemaCon, according to the Journal. He said he’s having to pay some of his 150 farmers more than usual to keep them from switching to less fussy crops like soybeans.

And even if cinemas get enough popcorn, finding something to put them in is its own challenge: Neely Shiefelbein, sales director for concession-supply company Goldenlink North America, said there’s a shortage of the sheen linings that keep popcorn bags from leaking and seeping. She told the Journal that some chains are going with more expensive metal or plastic containers.

“At the end of the day,” she said, “they have to have something to put popcorn in.”

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With farmers growing less popcorn, a backlog of plastic trays and cups so hard to find that some theater chains are buying their competitors’ unused supply – even with a rival’s logo still on – theater owners large and small are feeling the pressure.

“It’s a mess,” Jeff Benson, CEO of Cinergy Entertainment Group, which has theaters in North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma, told the Journal. He’s also having trouble finding popcorn bags, as well as nacho trays and soda flavors.

“You’re just not going to have root beer until it comes in,” he said.