How Many Calories in Movie Theater Popcorn?

Elise Deming, RDN
Couple eating popcorn in movie theater

Popcorn is a snack staple for a night at the movies. Popcorn nutritional facts may not be at the forefront of your mind when seeing the latest movie, but knowing its caloric content can help encourage healthier movie snack choices.

Calories

Popcorn varies based on theater chain; however, a study conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) focused its attention on Regal theaters and found the chain's popcorn can range anywhere from 400 to 1,200 calories. To provide perspective, most grown adults' average recommended daily caloric intake ranges from 1,800 to 2,200 calories. However, the calorie content of movie theater popcorn relies largely on the size and the toppings.

Popcorn Size

Based on the database used, the calorie content of popcorn size varies. MyFitnessPal, a trusted and widely used calorie-tracking app, reports slightly different calorie amounts than the Center for Science in the Public Interest's study for all sizes.

CSPI MyFitnessPal
Small Calories 670 480
Medium Calories 1,200 630
Large Calories 1,200 870

Despite the differences in the database, these calories still rank high for a snack or treat.

Toppings

Toppings such as butter can add extra calories to popcorn. Adding butter to popcorn can add anywhere from 130 to 260 calories the snack according to the CSPI report.

How to Enjoy Your Popcorn

Despite the high calories, you can enjoy an occasional treat of movie theater popcorn if you eat a well-rounded, healthy diet. Some tips to keep that popcorn intake healthy include:

  • Order the smallest size and avoid refills. This helps limits your caloric intake.
  • Skip the butter topping. There is already plenty of salt and butter on that popcorn.
  • Share with a friend. Sharing your popcorn ensures you eat less than the whole bag.
  • Skip the soda and candy. If you're planning on getting popcorn, pair it with a water instead of empty calories from soda and candy.
  • Plan ahead. If you know are heading to a movie and want to indulge in some popcorn, have lighter meals throughout the day.

Movies With a Side of Calories

Movie theater popcorn definitely carries a punch in terms of calories. No matter the source of nutrition facts, even a small popcorn is a hearty snack. If treating yourself to popcorn at the movies, use the strategies above to make it a healthier experience.

How Many Calories in Movie Theater Popcorn?