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Movie theaters experiencing popcorn, candy shortages over inflation

Moviegoers flocking back to the cinema this summer after pandemic-induced lockdowns will have to contend with another potential off-screen drama — a shortage of popcorn, candy, soda, and other snacks. Inflation, a tight labor market, and supply chain disruptions are adversely impacting the availability of food and beverages at movie theaters, according to The Wall Street Journal. Theater operators are also having difficulty restocking key concession stand items such as the bags that hold the popcorn as well as sheen linings that prevent butter from seeping out, the Journal reported. The supply crunch has forced cinemas to limit sales to non-paper containers made of either plastic or metal, which also double as advertisements for blockbuster films. “At the end of the day, they have to have something to put popcorn in,” Neely Schiefelbein, the sales director for Goldenlink North America, told the Journal. The disruptions to the supply chain have also affected shipments of plastic trays that hold strands of licorice, plastic cups, nacho trays, and soda flavors. Some theater owners have had to buy unused cups from rival theaters that have gone out of business and then use those to serve beverages to customers — even though the logo on the cups is that of a competitor. “It’s a mess,” Jeff Benson, the CEO of Cinergy Entertainment Group, which runs eight movie theaters in North Carolina, Texas, and Oklahoma, told the Journal. With pandemic restrictions lifted, the big screen is having something of a renaissance as film-lovers move away from streaming services like Netflix. Movie theaters got a huge boost from this weekend’s premiere of the box office smash “Top Gun: Maverick,” the sequel in which Tom Cruise reprises his role as Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. In its first three days in North American theaters, the long-in-the-works sequel earned an estimated $124 million in ticket sales, Paramount Pictures said Sunday. Including international showings, its worldwide total is $248 million. But this summer could present difficulties for customers eager to consume the staple of snacks that make the moviegoing experience enjoyable. “Popcorn supply will be tight,” Norm Krug, the CEO of Preferred Popcorn, a consortium of 150 farmers who supply kernels to movie theater chains, told the Journal. Krug said that he has been paying the farmers more to continue growing popcorn instead of switching to other more lucrative crops like soybeans, though he fears that the yields won’t be enough to keep up with customer demand. He said that the rising cost of fertilizer will increase even further thanks to the disruptions in the markets caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since soybeans don’t require the same expensive fertilizer to grow, Krug fears that farmers will have a greater financial incentive to abandon popcorn. Shortages of the snack could be felt later this year, when the holiday movie season rolls around, he said.

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