Popcorn at your doorstep

As moviegoers stay home, cinema chains have turned to delivering snacks to curb the economic damage of the pandemic

Major Cineplex, SF Cinema

Popcorn and movies have always gone hand-in-hand and there's nothing like watching the latest blockbuster with the sound of the crunching buttery and salty snack in the background.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc in Thailand since last year and affected the film industry. Due to months of soft lockdown in which cinemas were completely shut and the recent surge in coronavirus cases, people continue to feel worried about visiting public places, leading cinemas in the country to adapt in order to survive.

Yet, while movie theatres have seen foot traffic decrease, the movie snack industry is popping off. In fact, according to some top movie theatres and popcorn suppliers like Major Cineplex Group and SF Group Cinema, sales of popcorn under their new marketing strategy has surged compared to last year with more people staying home to watch movies via streaming platforms.

"Since we began to sell popcorn delivery after the first lockdown last year, the feedback and sales through delivery apps has improved compared to non-lockdown times," said Pimsiri Thongrompo, marketing director at SF Corporation.

"People are now staying home and they're binge-watching movies via streaming services instead of going to a movie theatre, so they're consuming popcorn at home. However, there are also customers who order popcorn to eat at school or share with colleagues at the office. It proves that popcorn isn't just a snack to enjoy while in a movie theatre like before."

SF's delivery popcorn comes in a curbside package and polyethene zip-lock bags and is available in a variety of flavours such as original, caramel, corn cheese, squid, paprika and mala (Chinese style spicy and numbing seasoning). It can be purchased via GrabFood, Lineman, Robinhood or Foodpanda in two different sizes; large for 150 baht and extra-large for 170 baht.

Major Cineplex Group is also another theatre chain that has expanded its marketing strategy and began selling large bags of movie theatre snacks as "popcorn to go" in March 2020 with the hope that this will help them handle the economic impact of the pandemic. Under its latest promotion titled "Stay At Home To Stop Infection" to support the government's social distancing guidelines, customers can order Major's famous popcorn in all flavours from for only 220 baht for a large bucket and 120 baht for a 75g ziplock bag. Major Cineplex also just launched its new line of gourmet popcorn called POP STAR which comes in several different flavours, including Caramel Macchiato, Chocolate Delight and Almond Caramel, available in 60g ziplock bags for 100 baht each.

"Major is currently in business expansion mode and we're trying new strategies, especially in terms of selling theatre popcorn and snacks," said Major Cineplex Group's cinema operation director Thanatip Yampayont.

"With a unique taste, we have many loyal customers who love our popcorn. Some customers don't buy because they are not going to see movies, so we thought to make our popcorn more accessible and started setting up popcorn kiosks on other floors of department stores, including Gourmet Market. Our popcorn is also now also available via e-commerce platforms like Lazada and Shopee."

Thanatip said that although the number of people coming to theatres may have declined somewhat in the past few months, the sales of popcorn sold at movie halls has not decreased in any way.

"Just like before, out of 10, five customers stop for a basket of popcorn. Although we're still in a pandemic, we're confident that safety isn't what our customers are concerned about when they come to see a movie," he pointed out. "We still strictly comply with government recommendations such as limiting capacity, safe distancing and temperature checks. We disinfect our premises daily and always remind every staff to wear face masks."

Even though most theatres have returned to normal service, both Major Cineplex and SF Cinema noted that the main reason why fewer people were coming over the past few months is the lack of new foreign films as several Hollywood movies have been postponed until at least April this year. US movie studios have postponed releases because cinemas in some high revenue areas such as New York and California are still closed.

However, the pandemic is providing new opportunities for Thai films, according to Pimsiri. With familiar casts, quality production and the absence of Hollywood films, moviegoers have switched to watching more local content.

"As we are focusing more on local movies and with the releases of films like director Mez Tharatorn's rom-com The Con-Heartist or comedy Riam Fighting Angel starring Ranee Campen, local content is receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from moviegoers as seats sold out nearly every round," said Pimsiri. "So we believe that once we have more local films to show or when the big-budget studio films return, they will bring the large crowds back with them."

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