The best movie popcorn in D.C.: A taste test (poll, video, photos)

Despite being TBD's film reporter, I'm probably the last person on staff who should lead a taste test of movie theater popcorn in the D.C. area. I rarely eat the stuff, and only at home or in a bar — never at the cinema. Why? For starters, it's criminally expensive: A small bag of popcorn at most theaters costs more than $5. By comparison, a 30-ounce jar of Orville Redenbacher popping corn — which makes 21 servings — costs $4.59 at Giant. But I'm not especially thrifty, and anyway I haven't, thanks to my job title, paid for a movie ticket in six months; paying $5 for popcorn would hardly sting. Nor can I blame my disinterest on an aversion to the taste of popcorn. I like it well enough, even if its true alimentary worth, much like lobster and toast, lies in its ability to transport liquid butter to my salivating mouth. And yeah, it's a "horror" to your body's health, but so are many other substances I ingest with regularity.


movie theater popcorn
Jenny Rogers, left, and Lisa Rowan ponder Regal Gallery Place's popcorn. (Photo: TBD Staff)

Long story short

REVEALED BY SCIENCE: D.C.'s best movie popcorn.


No, the real reason I don't eat popcorn in movie theaters — and why you shouldn't either — is the sound of eating it. Whose idea was it, after all, to introduce one of mankind's noisiest foods to one of its quietest spaces? (Here's the answer.) Many people eat popcorn by the fistful, thereby chomping with their mouths wide open, but even those who eat daintily, kernel by kernel, can't keep the crunch from escaping. And that's exactly what I don't want hear — crunch, crunch, crunch — while watching the opening sex scene of Vincere (though I suppose there are worse sounds one might hear at that moment). If I had it my way, you'd be required to finish your popcorn by the end of the previews, and bags of candy, which are equally noisy, would be banned entirely. I still bristle when I recall the woman who, while seated behind me at The Fighter, sounded like a kid unwrapping Christmas presents as she attacked her bottomless trove of chocolates and chews.

So maybe I was exactly the right person to lead this historic mission because I'm not liable to fall for mediocre popcorn. But just in case, I assembled an expert team of three TBD reporters: Miss Listicle, Jenny Rogers, who took copious notes; community hand-holder Lisa Rowan, who manned the cash and video camera; and restaurantress Nathasha Lim, who was responsible for still photography. My task was simple: to drive Calvey, our affectionately named Honda Civic, and double-park with abandon.

amc georgetown
The wall of calories at AMC Georgetown.

We set out, this Ocean's 4 of food criticism, at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 21, and hit seven theaters over four hours, all but one of them (AFI Silver) within the District. We discovered that the Avalon Theatre and the West End Cinema have the cheapest popcorn in town, and that the E Street Cinema has no shortage of seasonings: white cheddar, apple cinnamon, sour cream and onion, and chocolate marshmallow. Those were free of charge but cost an additional $1.50 at the Regal Gallery Place, a nationwide chain. Only there, and at another such chain, the AMC Loews Georgetown, did the concessionaire try to upsell.

  1. «
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. »