The Popcorn Conundrum

Prepare for a deep dive into the twisted mind and tummy of Jamey Stegmaier.

For any of this to make sense, you need to understand that I love movie theater popcorn. I don’t love all movie theater popcorn, but when a theater makes good popcorn, I’m all over it. In fact, I often look forward to the popcorn more than the movie. The movie is just a vessel to deliver popcorn to my belly.

Got it? Good. Let’s begin.

Tomorrow will be a bit of an odd day, because a good friend is taking the day off for her birthday, and she had some specific requests: One, that we eat duck for lunch. Two, we watch two movies in the theater back-to-back. Specifically, Isle of Dogs and Ready Player One.

So here’s the schedule for tomorrow:

  • 11:30-12:30: eat duck lunch
  • 12:45: watch Isle of Dogs
  • 3:00: get dessert
  • 4:00: watch Ready Player One

The question is: Should I get popcorn during one of these movies, and if so, which movie?

Scenario 1: Get popcorn during Isle of Dogs

If lunch weren’t immediately before this movie, this would be the obvious choice. The two movies are at different theaters, and the Isle of Dog theater has the best popcorn in St. Louis.

However, if I get popcorn during this movie, it means that I’ll need to eat a small lunch–I’m essentially just putting a little bit of food on my stomach in anticipation of popcorn. That seems reasonable to do if I were eating at home, but we’re eating at an interesting restaurant.

Scenario 2: Get popcorn during Ready Player One

This theater’s popcorn isn’t quite as good, but it’s still quite tasty. The timing is certainly much better for this one–it’s the time of day when I’m happy to have a little snack. That said, I will have just eaten dessert (unless I skip dessert, which also isn’t ideal).

You might wonder: Why don’t I buy the popcorn at the Isle of Dog theater, eat a little bit, get a refill, and sneak it into the Ready Player One theater? I cannot do that. I worked at a movie theater after high school, and I took an oath never to sneak substantial food items into a theater. It is an unbreakable oath, like in Harry Potter.

Scenario 3: Don’t get popcorn at either movie

The horror…no popcorn at all. My waist and heart will thank me, but I will resent them as a result.

However, if I take a step back and look at the situation, I must admit this is a viable option. I can eat a scrumptious lunch and be too full to think about popcorn, and then have a delicious dessert to carry me until dinner.


This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in a long time. I’ve run the numbers dozens of times, and the results are inconclusive. So I need your help. If you were me, what would you do?

12 thoughts on “The Popcorn Conundrum”

  1. I wouldn’t plan, but play it by ear. Eat your lunch to satisfaction, then head to the theater. Settle in your seats and see how you feel. Maybe a small popcorn will be just the right amount, maybe you have to skip it. Then eat your dessert. Head to the other theater and see what your stomach is telling you. Go with the flow. If you forego popcorn entirely, maybe you swing by the first theater on your way back home and pick up some popcorn to eat at home! 🙂

      • My initial thought was to vote for popcorn during the second movie and a dessert you could go light on–perhaps buy the dessert, have a small amount, and save the rest (unless it’s ice cream or gelato). However, after reading the comments, I like dmvp’s suggestion of going with the flow. If you feel like getting popcorn during movie 1, go for it! I wouldn’t leave movie 2 without popcorn, however. As a fellow movie theater popcorn aficionado, I think that would just leave you disappointed. At worst, you can buy the movie theater popcorn on your way out of movie 2, take it home, and eat it while you watch the yet-to-be-named movie 3. (Also, logistically speaking, if theater 1 isn’t far from home, you could pick up popcorn from theater 1 after movie 2.) As the options grow, the prospect of going with the flow looks more and more appealing!

    • Like this strategy! Also as a gift to the good people, feel free to provide a ranking of movie theater popcorn in St. Louis, as now I am dying to know!

  2. Easy, eat a reasonable lunch just don’t go over board. Then get popcorn for movie 1. We all know that you can eat a full thing of popcorn right after lunch over the 1-2 hour span of a movie. Then eat a little dessert. Go ahead and get another popcorn for movie 2. Maybe a size or two smaller. Then you can skip dinner. You’ll also not have the desire for popcorn for at least a month.

  3. These are all excellent recommendations! For now I’ll plan to play it by ear, and I’ll let you know what happens.

    • In case you’re curious, the day did not go at all as planned (though it was still fun).

      Lunch was good Scottish Arms, delicious food.

      We showed up at the Hi Pointe Theater (best popcorn in St. Louis) to discover that Isle of Dogs doesn’t open there until NEXT weekend. Fortunately, Ready Player One was playing a few minutes later at the Chase Park Plaza, so we raced over there. We also learned on our way that the Frontenac Theater had Isle of Dogs at a later time, so we planned on going there after Ready Player One. As a result, I opted against popcorn and soda at the Chase, as I don’t go to the Frontenac often, and their popcorn is really good.

      However, as we inched through traffic to get near the highway to go to the Frontenac–usually a 10-minute drive–we found that the traffic was so bad that Google estimate a 1 HOUR commute to the theater. So we gave up at that point and ended early.

      • That’s not the update I was expecting! Sorry to hear your friend’s birthday celebration did not go as planned but it sounds you guys had fun nonetheless… and I look forward to hear your thoughts on Ready Player One.

        With that said, I’m curious to hear what makes the Hi Pointe Theater’s popcorn so delicious. Do they just make the perfect bite of salty, buttery popcorn or is it that they make “gourmet” offerings such as truffle popcorn or asiago and cracked pepper popcorn like a couple of our theaters offer down here?

        • It’s more the former: The seasoning they use to pop their popcorn is delicious, and they use real butter on it. I usually add popcorn salt after that, and the result is near perfection (for me).

          • This is hilarious. You’re not only a creative genius (I have all the games you have designed so far) but you’re actually a funny, down to earth guy. I stumbled on your blog through board game geek. Popcorn is the craze here now in Australia with all the flavours going, but it did get me thinking. Popcorn is great for a movie snack as you don’t get to hear the crunch vibrate in your ear while trying to listen to the movie…but someone’s got to come up with an equally versatile snack for playing board games. Don’t you think? Everything seems too greasy or messy while snacking or eating near your most valued and cherished games. I’m fear stricken everytime we open you’re beautifully designed masterpieces. The sound of fizzy drink, wrappers and packets of chips has me sitting on the edge of the seat, watching the game carefully…the anxiety, exhilaration and anticipation are real emotions conjured by the gaming experience…but for the wrong reasons. Help!
            I still have Viticulture and Tuscany in shrink wrap. They are too beautiful to open. I get my mate to bring over his chocolate stained oiled Essentials Edition all the time. ;0
            Love all your work! Well done.

            • Thanks Harb! That’s a good point about board game snacks…it’s tough to find something delicious (and not too unhealthy) that doesn’t make a mess. They only thing I can think of are crackers, as they’re usually not greasy.

              Thanks for your kind words about my games! 🙂


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