1

The expression first appeared in the mid-19th century in a collection of poems by Valladolid-born politician and author Juan Martínez Villergas.

2

Charles Cretors was the inventor of the modern popcorn machine and founder of what is today still one of the leading companies in the sector, Cretors.

 

Popcorn Architecture

 

Still from the film “Picnic” (1955), with Kim Novak and James Vicary’s controversial experiment in advertising.

An old Castilian proverb states that it’s impossible to suck and blow at the same time.1 Another two activities that should never be tried at the same time are eating and watching a good film. The results are negative not only in cinematographic and gastronomic terms, but also, potentially, for the digestive system.  But then again, there still exist things like dine-in theatres.

Naturally, this aberration has its roots in the United States, and more specifically in something as simple as a grain of corn. Some 5,000 years ago at least, somebody discovered that just by applying heat, this boring little piece of starch could be transformed into something else, something much more attractive to look at and consumable by humans on a massive scale. And that’s how popcorn, that omnipresent snack so strongly associated with going to the movies, came into being.

But the link with cinema was not immediate. In the United States, popcorn was a product mainly linked with circuses and boxing, events considered informal enough not to be belittled by the stickiness, the smell and above all the noise inherent to such a snack. It certainly wasn’t associated with cinema, which was then aspiring to attain a status of its own as an art form. The only place where popcorn consumption was compatible with a movie was inside a car in a drive-in theatre.

But little by little traditional cinemas gradually succumbed to the charm, and above all to the economic benefits, of popcorn. In the 1950s, it began to be not just an added extra for movie-watchers but the principal item sold in theatres. Within just a few years, popcorn consumption in cinema auditoriums passed from being banned to being encouraged as a means saving a sector in crisis. On occasions, the films themselves were just excuses to gobble down this attractive yet unhealthy product, sold from those ineffable Cretors machines2 in bars which now occupied prominent positions in theatre lobbies. Customers were lured into those lobbies with purpose-made trailers, like the classic  “Let’s All Go to the Lobby”3, or more aggressively by means of controversial experiments like that of James Vicary. Unfortunately, such experiments irremediably devalued the cinema-going experience and, with it, cinema’s aspiration to be considered a serious, respectable art form.

I must admit that, in spite of everything, I don’t dislike popcorn. I find it tasty and fun, and I sometimes even eat it while I’m watching some instantly forgettable blockbuster. In fact, not long ago I received a brand-new model of popcorn machine as a gift. They tell me this one is intended to revolutionise not cinema but another sector that’s going through its own identity crisis: architecture. From past experience, I’m not sure if it will lead to any improvement. I only hope its products won’t be as indigestible.

My new popcorn machine. I call it Patrik.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página
1

The expression first appeared in the mid-19th century in a collection of poems by Valladolid-born politician and author Juan Martínez Villergas.

2

Charles Cretors was the inventor of the modern popcorn machine and founder of what is today still one of the leading companies in the sector, Cretors.

 

Autor:
(Gijón, 1981) Arquitecto (2005), máster en restauración arquitectónica y doctor en urbanística y ordenación del territorio por la Universidad de Valladolid. Compagina la práctica profesional vinculada a la planificación urbanística con la docencia en el área de proyectos arquitectónicos. Sus intereses giran en torno a la representación e interpretación cultural del territorio, los medios de comunicación y la disolución de los límites disciplinares.

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