Here is an article I found from a British paper:
It's 'The End' for popcorn at the movies: A growing number of cinemas are barring the snack because it is too downmarket and messy
Amelia Hill, social affairs correspondent, The Observer
Sunday August 10 2008
Madonna says she lost her post-baby bulge by snacking on it, Samuel L. Jackson suspects no one can be trusted who puts sugar on it, and Patricia Arquette threw hers over Christian Slater to get him to notice her in True Romance.
Popcorn has become an integral part of cinema-going. Audiences are willing to double the price of their ticket by forking out up to £4.50 for the snack. But the dominance of popcorn may be at an end. A growing number of cinemas are banning it, and next month the largest art-house chain will introduce popcorn-free screenings.
'Popcorn is a contentious issue. Lots of people absolutely hate it and have asked us to ban it, so we're going to do exactly that,' said Gabriel Swartland, head of media at the Picturehouse Cinema, a chain that comprises 19 Picturehouse-branded screens across the country, including such non-branded venues as the Little Theatre Cinema, Bath. Throughout September, the Picturehouse's Cinema City screen in Norwich will hold popcorn-free screenings at 7pm every Tuesday. 'If it's a success, and I've no reason to suspect it won't be, we'll roll it out across all our cinemas and make it a permanent fixture,' said Swartland.
The Picturehouse has a reputation for pioneering new cinema approaches. They introduced the first 'Mother and Baby' screenings in 1998, a concept picked up by virtually every cinema in the country. 'Going by our experience in the past, it seems likely the bigger chains will pick up on the idea once we've tested the water,' admitted Swartland. 'People either love or hate popcorn. It makes sound business sense to cater to both these audiences.'
Some other cinemas are going further and banning popcorn altogether. Daniel Broch, owner of the Everyman cinema in London's Hampstead, recently bought 17 more venues, including London's Screen on the Hill and the Screen on the Green.
'I will de-popcorn every new venue I acquire,' he said. 'It has a disproportionate influence on the space in terms of its overwhelming smell, the cultural idea of it and the operational problems created by the mess it produces. I'm not saying no popcorn is better than popcorn,' he added. 'But I am saying there is no way in which it fits with the culturally sophisticated brand I wish to sell.'
Nicolas Kent, artistic director of the award-winning Tricycle cinema and theatre, puts the case in stronger terms. 'Popcorn is horrible stuff and I won't have it anywhere near my cinema,' he said. 'It's a form of junk food and that encourages junk entertainment. Its smell is all-pervasive, it makes huge amounts of mess, and it distracts and annoys people intensely.'
Thanks to the immense amount of bulk produced from a relatively small number of kernels, popcorn is the single most profitable product a cinema sells. Depending on its price, it can yield more than 90p on every £1 sold. It also, conveniently, makes customers thirsty for drinks, another high-margin product.
Phil Clapp, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors' Association, said: 'Because of the profit made by cinemas on ticket prices, they would struggle to be viable without popcorn.' He admitted, however, that the decision to go popcorn-free could be a canny one. 'These cinemas considering going popcorn-free are creating a radically different model to any we've had before in the industry. But revolutionary as they undoubtedly are, there's also a very sound financial case for their decision.'
Cinema audiences have remained static for the last five years, at about 170 million admissions a year. 'These new-style cinemas are quite rightly seeking to draw in new audiences by transforming the cinema experience,' said Clapp. 'I would expect that, if this pilot trial is a success, it is something the bigger screens will inevitably look at introducing themselves. Not as an overriding policy, but in the same way they have done with other select screenings.'
James Hannaway, owner of the Rex in Berkhamsted, agreed. He restored the Rex to its original Art Deco glory in 2004, replacing the rows of seats with tables, to which waiters bring cheese platters and dishes of olives, chocolates and fruit for between £1.50 and £4. He admitted he could make larger profits by selling popcorn. 'Popcorn is hateful stuff. It is the anathema of everything I want the Rex to be and the decision to ban it was one of the first I made,' he said. 'It's trashy, it makes a mess and it smells. The multiplexes have to sell it because their ambition is to make as much money as possible. My ambition to make a night at the Rex a glamorous, dignified and civilised affair. People dress up to come here. It's special. Popcorn isn't.'
But other chains have found they must compromise. The independent Curzon chain of five cinemas only relinquished its popcorn-free ethos when audiences demanded the snack.
'Audiences in three venues - the Soho, Mayfair and Chelsea Curzons - began asking for popcorn, so we provided it,' said Richard Napper, marketing director. 'Our two other screens - the Renoir and the Richmond Film House - remain popcorn-free.'
There are, Napper adds, distinct differences between audiences. 'The non-popcorn cinema goers are more arty and studious. The non-popcorn cinemas have a very distinct atmosphere too: they're quieter, more sophisticated places.'