Calories in Movie Theater Popcorn

When you think of a movie, what comes to mind? Popcorn I bet!  If you are like me, you’ve been spending quite a few nights lately in movie theaters. Seeing a movie is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. But it won’t be so enjoyable when you can’t squeeze into your jeans if you give in to your urge for popcorn every time you see a movie.  And based on all the crunching and munching I hear in the theater, I think a lot of people are giving in to their urges.

I was just in a movie theater last night seeing “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Ok – so it’s not Oscar material … but it was girls night out!  I was with a certain person (Esther from Esther’s weight loss journey) who wanted popcorn. Now I am certainly not the “popcorn police” so who am I to tell my friend not to get popcorn. She ended up getting a small unbuttered popcorn and diet soda.

So how bad is movie popcorn? Not good … “Movie Theater Popcorn Is Just Not That Good For You”!  Why? The portions are jumbo sized and it is popped in oil. I think most of us realize that movie theater popcorn is not exactly a health food, but did you realize that a medium size popcorn without added butter contains 11-16 cups (depending on which movie theater you are in), 650 – 900 calories and 43-60 grams of fat?  You probably thought it wasn’t so bad because you didn’t add butter! Now if you add butter,  the calories jump to 910-1220 calories and 71-97 grams of fat. This is more than 6 McDonald cheeseburgers! And even worse, much of that fat might be saturated, depending on what kind of oil it was popped in. Saturated fat is the kind of fat that raises LDL cholesterol (the kind that clogs arteries).

A few years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest made headlines with its expose on movie theatre popcorn. This caused many theaters to change from using a saturated oil such as coconut oil to an unsaturated oil such as peanut oil. While this was better for the heart, your waistline doesn’t know the difference between good fat and bad fat. In any case, many theaters have changed back to using the saturated oils – so back to bad for the heart and waistline.

 Check out the calories and fat content of movie theater popcorn:

[TABLE=32]

Tips to improve your movie munchies:
1. Bring in your own snack- discreetly of course! Pop a 100 calorie mini bag of popcorn at home and eat that instead of the movie theater popcorn. Check out my post on crunchy snacks for other ideas.

2. If you really have the urge for real movie popcorn, get a kid size if they have it – no butter of course! A small sans butter would be your next best choice. Or share one small container with a friend or two.

3. If you have the real movie theater popcorn, try to make your next meal a little lighter.


Check out my other popular posts
How many calories are in pizza?
How many calories are in Chinese food?

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48 Comments on “Calories in Movie Theater Popcorn

  1. You provided exactly the information I needed when I needed it. Thank you! Very helpful.

  2. Thanks Chickadee! With the cold weather, many city girls and guys are heading to the movies … and I hear a lot of crunching on popcorn. I don’t think many people are aware of how many calories are in movie theatre popcorn.

  3. I have been looking all over for the calorie, carb and fat breakdown for theater Kettle corn. Any body have a clue?

  4. Hi Sharon,

    I also couldn’t find the exact nutrition breakdown for movie theater Kettle corn. However I can’t see why it would any different from regular movie popcorn. I am assuming you aren’t having buttered popcorn :)
    So it would be as above ~ 400 calories, 27 gm fat, and ~ 35 grams carbs.

  5. What about air popped popcorn that you make in your own air popper? Is it ok to indulge and have a big bowl of that?

  6. ok, so I googled movie theatre popcorn… don’t like the answer!! My braces just came off, and I’ve been waiting A YEAR AND A HALF to eat the large, with butter… by my self!

    I’m at the end of a 20 pound weight loss…(from 140 down to 121) not really looking for the calorie count so I could eat enough to stay within my daily calorie count, just looking at how much damage I’m going to do.

    It’s gonna happen, just waiting now for the right movie and calculating how many other food items I’ll have to say no to to make it worth it :)

  7. Ok, this is great, but what about sodium content and everything else?

  8. I was looking for sodium counts too. Any way of guestimating what the sodium count is if you don’t add any extra?

  9. Thank you very much for an entertaining but insightful article!

  10. I think that the word moderation has to come into this conversation. When I was talking to my doctor about losing weight, he mentioned portion control and moderation. If people are on such strict diets that they don’t indulge occasionally, or indulge sensibly, then dieters are going to cheat and cheat big. Movie theater popcorn is high in calories depending on size, and with or without butter. But ask yourself if you are going to the movies every single night and chowing down on a bucket of popcorn with butter. Probably not. Ask yourself are you exercising on a regular basis. If you are, then the occasional indulges won’t be detrimental to your weight loss program. It’s what you feed yourself day in and day out and the lack of exercise that the pounds will pack on, not once in awhile indulges.

  11. Yikes! scary! thanks for the info… I’ll try steamed corn which is available these days as an alternative in indian cinemas

  12. Holy c*ap! Thankyou so much for this info! I recently moved to Australia and have put on a stone since being here. I thought it was down to the fact I hadn’t exercised for a couple of months and my diet has been quite a bit more indulgent than normal.
    However I am a cinema junkie and have gone at least once sometimes twice a week since I have been here and each time I have ate a medium butter popcorn or a large if shared with my boyf!

    I don’t even want to think what that adds up to and I almost always have chocolate when I go to the cinema too! I can’t believe it! I never have butter popcorn back home as we don’t have it in the UK and besides I don’t go to the cinema as often as I have done here for some reason.
    I am just glad I have found this out now and thank god I didn’t put on more than a stone. I am back at the gym now and am cutting the popcorn out for good!!

  13. Not nearly as bad as I had guessed. I was thinking 2500 Calories for that big bucket of buttery wonderfulness. Still, 1640 Calories is more than what a person needs to survive for an extended period of time should this economy really go in the toity instead of just looking like it is going to go that way. I skipped the popcorn at the theatre tonight and then looked up this to see what I missed. Glad I skipped it.

  14. Thank so much!!! Wow-sers!!!!
    My hubby and I are off to see a movie and I was just curious. This just moved me to bring my own snack!
    I am certian that you just saved me from an extra couple of hours on the eliptical machine!! I am glad I goggles this before going and not afterwards!

  15. Pingback: BodyBugg Review; A Calorie Management System | Thin Blog

  16. Thank you for the information, it was really helpful. I am sure you must have taken a lot of time to get this information. Thank You for your time.

  17. Yowza! Wish I had read this BEFORE I ate that popcorn today! Got a small and only ate 1/2, so not feeling too too bad. But still…

  18. Thank for the info! I’m working on my target weight but trying to lose 150lbs. I was 290lbs now im 240lbs at 5’9. I’m glad I read this because I had no idea movie pop corn had so many calories!

  19. Pingback: Calories in Movie Theater Popcorn and Other Snacks | citygirlbites.com

  20. Yikes! I guess I better have second thoughts about sharing a large extra-buttery popcorn with my family at the cinema tomorrow! Thanks!
    (I’m going to see “Hop”…)

  21. Great info – I’m really into health/fitness – so when we splurge on this deliciousness, my husband and I just go to the movies and eat popcorn as our dinner (instead of the typical dinner/movie date night). Not the best choice, but it keeps that day’s calorie intake down and on rare occasions is okay :)

  22. Hi Mandy,
    That is actually a very good idea. Not the most nutritious dinner in the world, but at least you don’t end up having 2 dinners!

  23. Do you know the calories in the new Kettle Korn they now have at theaters

  24. I am looking for sodium counts also. I have not seen a reply to Marge’s question of April, 2009. Can you give an approximate sodium count/ cup of unbuttered, oil popped popcorn?

  25. Thank you so much! I’ve been trying to live a healthier lifestyle and my boyfriend and I are going to see The Avengers tonight, I love movie theater popcorn and we usually order the jumbo with butter and salt… we finish it and he gets a refill! I knew it was bad but seeing the real numbers with help me stay away. I believe I’ll sneak in a bag of the 100 cal popcorn and some club soda :)

  26. Great Corrine! Now you’ll save tons of calories – and money too:) There are lots of healthy little crunchy snacks you can sneak it!

  27. Pingback: New York City Board of Health Weighing a Ban on Large Movie Popcorn

  28. Not that I would ever eat a large popcorn … but still seems a bit much to ban it. Thanks for sharing this info with CBG!

  29. LOLOLOL…popcorn is my favorite food in the world and I go to the movies at least once a week…I always get a large and share it, but we end up eating only half…how many calories is that?

  30. Well Boogy Bear – at least you are eating the whole container! 1/2 of a large popcorn is about 550 calories. So if you and your friend eat only 1/2 of the container, I’d estimate that you are getting 275 calories of popcorn. Not horrible! Just make sure your dinner (or lunch) is on the lighter side that day.

  31. I don’t really see how this shocks people so much, but that being said, I understand wanting to be aware of what you’re eating. At the same time, though, how often do you consume an entire large movie theatre popcorn by yourself? I assume it would be highly unlikely. If you’re sharing a large popcorn with a friend, just opt for no butter, and then you’re really just consuming about 500 calories each. This is not a problem if you factor it into your calorie consumption for the rest of the day! I do this all the time and this is how I watch my weight: if I know I’m going to the movies later, I eat a light supper that’s mostly protein or something else lean. Then I can allow myself some extra calories for the movie snack. And even if you don’t budget for it, just don’t do it often! There’s nothing wrong with eating over your daily required calorical intake if you don’t do it more than once or so a week.

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