If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that you should never take anything for granted. I know that’s such a cliche, but 2020 has been one hell of an eye-opener in that I miss doing things in general (road tripping, going to restaurants, and browsing for new books at my local library). But what I miss most is sitting in a dark movie theater with a big bag of popcorn and a box of candy.
I streamed a number of this year’s new releases from the comfort of my own couch (cannot recommend First Cow enough), though I found that the experience unfulfilling. Part of the magic of being at the movies is sitting in a packed auditorium, juggling concessions while you wait for the lights to dim and the previews to begin. While I don’t see myself going to the movies anytime soon, I can certainly enjoy a piece of it at home. Enter: Sno-Caps.
I’ll admit it. I am obsessed with Sno-Caps — not just as movie theater candy but as regular-degular life candy. If I happen upon them in the wild (rare), I stock up on as many boxes as I can, because nothing brings me greater joy than a handful of mini mountains of sprinkle-coated chocolate. I understand there is a great divide between people who love Sno-Caps and people who absolutely hate them. The latter argue that the movie theater concession tastes like “mud coated in sand,” but I think that’s a serious over-exaggeration, as they only slightly taste like mud and sand. So I’m going all in on defending their honor: Sno-Caps are the absolute best movie theater candy.
Let’s talk about your typical concession counter selection, shall we? Starting with the star of our show here:
From the moment I had my first box of Sno-Caps, I’ve been a fan of nonpareils. And despite the loud internet hate, I’m clearly not the only one, because Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate nonpareils have been a concession-stand staple since the 1920s. Sno-Caps are the only option that meets the movie theater candy trifecta, getting points for nostalgia (aka a reliable association with the movie-theater experience, always stocked in that Icee-and-popcorn-grease-covered glass case), taste (throw a couple on your tongue and what follows is magic: melted chocolate with a satisfying crunch), and popcorn pairing (never buttered, because gross). Dumping the majority of the box in your popcorn creates a marriage of sweet and salty that always hits the spot. You can’t get a combination like this anywhere else, and soda from a fountain (I prefer Coke) washes it all down before you do it all again. I’m sorry, but no other movie theater candy holds a candle to the versatility of Sno-Caps.
M&M’s taste great and pair well with popcorn, but Sno-Caps are clearly superior because semi-sweet chocolate is easier to enjoy with popcorn and a soda than milk chocolate. Also, M&M’s are more widely available than Sno-Caps, so they lack that special movie theater connotation. You can grab a bag at the supermarket or on a Target run. Where’s the fun in that?
Introduced in the early ’90s, Nestle’s Buncha Crunch doesn’t have the same nostalgic appeal as most movie theater candies, but bite-sized milk chocolate mixed with crisped rice is an excellent combination. However, when you dump a whole box into a bag of popcorn, it can be overwhelming. Too much crunch!
I’m committed to the cups — Reese’s mini peanut butter cups, to be exact (they’re better) — but I appreciate Reese’s Pieces from a design perspective. Hershey’s introduced this candy in the late ’70s, as its packaging continues to reflect. In terms of taste, you can’t go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate, but getting a box of Reese’s Pieces means denying myself popcorn — on their own, they’re already too rich.
From the gloriously greasy cheesesteak to righteous hooligan Gritty, Philadelphia is home to some truly great things. It’s also where Raisinets were born: The chocolate-covered raisins were introduced by the Blumenthal Brothers Chocolate Company in 1927. They’re great, and moviegoers have been known to mix them with popcorn, but I think it’s safe to say that our palates have evolved and we now know better than to mix raisins — again, RAISINS — with popcorn. The beauty of this candy is that it’s strong enough to stand on its own. I prefer something that can work well with others.
You’re better off getting a milkshake after the movie, because that’s where malt belongs. Also, have you washed down Whoppers with a Coke or Icee? It’s… not great.
Milk Duds are infuriating and a dental nightmare. You need time and patience to consume these chocolate-covered caramel lumps because you have to gnaw and chew and gnaw and chew and despite your best efforts, they stick in your teeth. How can I be expected to chew and digest something that gets wedged in the corners of the box?!
Candy that freshens your breath while you eat it should not count as candy, but I get the nostalgic appeal. Junior Mints have been around since 1949, and they played an integral role in an episode of Seinfeld. I just don’t think peppermint belongs in a movie theater.
Peanut butter > peanuts. Just get the Reese’s Pieces.
The superior fruit candy. Skittles taste terrible eaten alongside popcorn, but a pro tip for non-movie settings: throw a couple on your tongue and you’ve got yourself a fruit-flavored candy smoothie, or bite down on ’em, wash it all down with Sprite, and you’ll be in heaven.
Starburst comes in a close second to Skittles. In fact, they’re basically the same candy. The only downside to Starburst is that each piece is individually wrapped, and that’s more work — and noisy work, at that — than I care to commit to at the movies.
Welch’s Fruit Snacks
I like to think of Welch’s fruit snacks as Raisinets’ cousin. They taste great, like actual fruit, but mix a bag of gummies with popcorn and you have some seriously questionable texture going on there.
Haribo Gummy Bears/Sour Patch Kids/Swedish Fish
Mike and Ike
I imagine Sunkist Fruit Gems are made like chocolate chip cookies — with a cookie cutter — and these capsule-shaped bites are the extra bits. However, unlike the tender Fruit Gems, Mike and Ikes taste like they’ve been sitting in a hospital vending machine for who knows how long.
Good & Plenty
Multiply Mike and Ike by a factor of “licorice” and it’s suddenly worse.
Hard candy? At the movies? Absolutely fucking not.
Yes, hi. Would you care for some congealed cough syrup?
Only slightly better than Red Vines. Twizzlers are a great substitute for straws, especially with a Cherry Coke, but that’s about it.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites
The worst of the movie theater concessions. The thought of chowing down on cookie dough in a movie theater is simply too much. I can’t believe this was ever a trend.