I think about this every time we go to the movie theater or out to an event where my daughter would be completely tempted by the yummy aroma of popcorn: Will the popcorn be gluten-free? Let’s face it– popcorn is one of those simple (read: gluten-free) snacks that can easily be made complicated (read: gluten-filled) by an additive to the oil or seasoning. But it doesn’t have to be that tough right?

Recently on The Savvy Celiac Facebook Page, we asked about whether people go out and have movie theater popcorn or popcorn at a sporting event or somewhere else you could get it. Respondents had serious concerns about cross contamination and general worries about whether it was gluten-free at all.

In full disclosure, I worry about whether the popcorn and it’s cooking ingredients are gluten-free, but I haven’t worried about cross-contamination within the bin of popcorn. Not much else is going in there and the ones I have seen are nearly fully enclosed. So I apologize up front if everyone thinks I’m too liberal here.

So last Wednesday I set out on a mission to inquire with the movie theater companies about their popcorn product.

Movie Theater Gluten-Free Popcorn Survey Results

I targeted the largest movie theater chains: Regal, AMC, Marcus, Carmike, Cinemark, Mann (Minnesota), and Kerasotes. I emailed all except AMC who had the initial question about gluten-free popcorn on their website. Here’s what I found:

Our local AMC Theater has Orville Redenbacher popcorn which is where we go and eat popcorn. They have more than 4,000 screens in more than 300 theaters across the US. I found half of the answer I needed right on their website: AMC confirms the AMC popcorn is gluten free. I asked a question about the “Butter” — I haven’t received an answer.

Regal Entertainment Group has nearly 7,000 screens in about 550 theaters — the largest in the country. They got back to me with a detailed answer: They use plain popcorn seeds, coconut oil and a seasoning salt (“Salt, Certified food color (including FD&C Yellow #5 & #6), imitation butter flavor, Tri-calcium Phosphate added as an anti-caking agent”). The buttery topping (“Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Soy Lechtin, TBHQ & Citric Acid to improve stability, Natural & Artificial Flavors & Colors, Dimethylpolysiloxane (an anti-foaming agent)”). Then Amy the person who answered bottom-lined it for me,

“The popcorn is gluten-free but the buttery topping is not.” — Regal Entertainment Group

Cinemark didn’t declare their popcorn gluten-free one way or another but did send me information on both their popcorn and artificial butter. Download the popcorn information here. The ingredients do say there is no wheat in this product, but as we all know, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gluten-free. Read up on the “Buttery Topping” here.

Kerasotes got back to me as well saying, “the popping oil, buttery topping and salt we use have been confirmed to be gluten-free. The seeds (Orville Redenbacher) do contain gluten, corn gluten, but not wheat, rye, barley or oat gluten.” FYI, corn gluten is safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.

Mann Theaters in Minnesota couldn’t get back to me right away. Their person in charge will get back to me in a few weeks because he’s out of town.

I have not heard back from Marcus Theaters or Carmike Theaters.

I’m pretty uncomfortable with the buttery topping (which is usually something you can add on to your popcorn..it doesn’t automatically come with it on), but I’m feeling better about the popcorn itself*, which is the way we eat it anyway.

Other popcorns:

Okay there are other places to eat popcorn too…namely event centers that have sports, shows, expos and more…

Target Center in Minneapolis has Popcorn Indiana. The website doesn’t detail which kind exactly, but the Popcorn Indiana website seems very forthcoming about the gluten-free status of their products.

The Metrodome in Minneapolis had no information, but at one time I thought they had ACT II popcorn. But you will have to check upon arrival.

Target Field’s popcorn is gluten free. I did a complete posting and follow up on the goodies at Target Field. However, now that the season has abruptly ended for the Twins, ahem…. We will have to double check this gluten-free listing again in the spring.

Xcel Energy Center also doesn’t post it’s popcorn information online. You’ll have to check that out first hand or call ahead.

Finally, I know popcorn is a hot item at some Target stores across the country. I emailed Target and this was their response about whether their popcorn was gluten-free: “Currently there is no way to guarantee nutritional or allergen information for items produced at the stores because of the potential for cross contamination and the possibility that we would change ingredients for these items.” Safe and easy answer.

Anyway, I will update this post if and when I hear from Marcus and Carmike theaters. Happy popcorn eating!

*Note: As always, the popcorn lists are only as current as this blog post is. It’s always safer to double check with the company to ensure gluten-free status of anything.

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23 Responses to “Movie Theater Popcorn: A Gluten-Free “Do” or “Don’t”?”

  1. One again, your article is very nice

  2. penny lane emerson
    April 12th, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Wow! Thank you for doing so much research. :)

  3. AMc uses soybean oil as the toppingbwhich is not butter careful friends.

  4. Thank you very much for all the research you have done. My only regret is that I would have read this post before inhaling 1/2 a bucket of popcorn last night at the movie theater. I now understand why I am doubled over in pain today. This is a mistake I will not make again. Thank you for the clarification. :)

  5. I just got off the phone with my local AMC (Rockaway, NJ)and spoke to a manager who was surprisingly educated about gluten free – the popcorn is NOT gluten free. Boo :(

  6. I’m with Jennifer. I’m a day late reading this blog. Ouch :/

  7. I also am a few days late in reading this. Explains sooo much! Also makes me sad that I can’t eat popcorn at the movies :(

  8. im usually fine with the popcorn but ive been sick this time since i had it on saturday

  9. I called Regal Cinemas today and they said that their popcorn and topping are gluten-free but my son got glutened this morning and I’m convinced it was the popcorn. Is there any way you can email me the information you received? My son had the popcorn without the topping but still got sick. I think it was cross-contaminated. But they are saying it is all gluten-free. I have no idea what happened.

  10. According to this the popcorn in all the theaters including the topping are Gluten Free. The only reason that people might feel sick is from all the oil. You shouldn’t be eating a half or whole tub. Get a small bag and split it. I am a nurse and a diabetic. I still enjoy movie popcorn, just not a whole bucket.

    http://www.glutenfreeliving.com/Upload/plate-vol9-1

  11. I have been Gluten free for 23 days and have felt much better health. I read on another site that Movie popcorn was safe, therefore, last night I indulged while at movies with my boys.

    Woke up in the middle of the night with familiar stomach pains and am sick this morning. I believe I have been “Glutenized”. It must have been the oil/butter/flavor.

    ((Sigh)) Oh well. After 23 days only one mistake. Thanks for your research and information.

  12. my concern is always the yellow seasoned salt that they cook the popcorn with in the kettle. have any of them mentioned whether that was gluten-free or not? I generally eat plain (non-buttered) popcorn if they use the regular white salt, but skip it if they use the yellow seasoned salt. but I’d love to eat that as well, if it’s GF!

  13. Hi, I know this was last posted in 8 months ago, but I just read the article and wanted to share something. I work in a Cinemark theater, have for the last 4 years, and it’s always been our policy (the theater I work in, I don’t know about the company) that if someone has a gluten allergy or celiac’s you are more than welcome to bring in your own popcorn. We understand that movies and popcorn go hand in hand and people shouldn’t be deprived of a treat because we might not have gluten free options. Thanks!

  14. Onslow Gluten Free
    April 2nd, 2013 at 10:04 am

    I am very sensitive to gluten and have never had a reaction to Carmike Theater’s popcorn, even with the butter topping. I have, however, had a STRONG reaction to the popcorn at Target and will never eat it again.

  15. I have definitely had issues with the Fandango movie theaters. I’m sure now it’s the buttery mix.

  16. I know this is an older post, but I’ve just stumbled upon it and felt that I had to share. There’s a company in New Jersey (they ship anywhere) that sells AMAZING popcorn that’s completely gluten free (no cross contamination). The popcorn is also non-GMO, which is the icing on the cake. I’m not kidding, it tastes so much better than regular popcorn, and since you pop it yourself you can make sure that the butter (or anything else) you put on it is also gluten free. Check them out! http://madisonparkfoods.com/

  17. I just found this delicious popcorn! Angies Boom Chicka Pop. gluten-free, vegan, kosher fair trade, non GMO. Yum…

  18. The problem with most processed foods are: sunflower/safflower oils.
    These respond with a gluten-like effect because they are “trans-mediators” as are: some dairy, coffee, yeast, and leavening. Additionally, the enzyme to digest egg is absent. Other foods that cause ‘leaky’ gut are: ‘brown’ rice and soy. GMO’s are very hard to digest and these include: corn and soybean. Thanks to Amy, I will avoid the theater butter.

  19. I’ve recently gone gluten free, and it seems to be helping. My families tradition is to go to a movie on X-Mas eve. I was hungry and love movie theatre popcorn with lots of butter. Hours after I consumed a half a small popcorn with extra butter of course I was paying for it. Lots of cramping with many trips to the bathroom. I’m glad I came across this article because it basically confirms that I will not be consuming theatre popcorn again. I also liked one person’s comment about his theatre policy of allowing people who are gluten sensitive to bring in their own popcorn. Homemade with real butter is the best. I may inquire at my cities local theatre.

  20. Good heavens….I’m actually less concerned with the possible gluten than the 140 grams of awful fats and oils!
    Researchers found movie theater popcorn offerings range from 400 to 1,200 calories, with one to three days’ worth of saturated fat and up to 1,500 milligrams of sodium. The effect will feel similar to being glutenized; not fun at all.

  21. http://glutenfreemom.typepad.com/gluten_free_mom/2013/03/both-the-popcorn-and-the-buttery-topping-from-regal-entertainment-group-is-gluten-free.html#.U0s6Su29LCQ

  22. Thanks for including the full ingredients when available. I am allergic to yellow food dyes and it has been very hard to find info. Great write-up!

  23. Just went to cinemark here in northern ca. After some research i tried their popcorn and butter and so far so good. They use Odell’s butter And popping oil. Im a pretty sensitive celiac so id know by now if I was glutened

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