The (Rumored) Truth of Movie Popcorn’s Origin

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 95 and 65
Occupation: Retired Advertising and Patent Attorney/Inventor
Residence: Skokie, IL and LA, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/05/15
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The first informant is a 65-year-old man who grew up in Southside Chicago and Baltimore with his parents and two brothers. He is a father, grandfather, patent attorney, musician, and inventor.

The second informant is a 95-year old man who grew up in Davenport, right near downtown with his parents and two brothers. His father came over from Russia and owned a grocery store in Davenport. He now lives in Skokie, IL with his wife and caretaker. He has three sons and 9 grandchildren.

 

Informant 1: “Your great, great-grandmother on your Grandma’s side was the pioneering movie theater operators.”

Informant 2: She was the one who started popcorn in theaters.”

Informant 1: “Well, it was rumored she was.”

Informant 2: “No, that was a definite.

Informant 1: “Umm,”

Informant 2: “And, what happened was there was a theater chain that was in Davenport. And it was very profitable, and the owner found out that she was doing it, and he started doing it and told the other theater chains. I read something historical somewhere about popcorn and they’re giving that theater chain credit, when they actually copied it from Grandmother.”

 

This particular interview made me think of the film we watched early on in the semester, Whose Song is It Anyway.

 

It’s an origin story—or an attempted, alleged origin story—of popcorn in movie theaters. Informant 2 was insistent that his grandmother had in fact been the pioneer of movie theater popcorn and got somewhat heated when Informant 1 suggested that it might be rumor that she actually did this. Informant 2’s account was closely concerned with credit and business—the idea of the underdog, or the small business, versus the big chain.

 

This interview concerns originality and relates to our discussions about originality and society’s—in particular, American society—obsession with it. Copyright falls into this arena, as well, a legal way of giving credit, and in doing so, giving ownership, to one individual or corporation for something that very well has been the product of several minds and over the span of several years.