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At The Movies Theme Party

Every home theater should have one essential piece of equipment…. a snack bar! There’s something about sitting down to a film with a tub full of popcorn and a large soda that makes the experience "complete." The home theater enthusiast shouldn’t have to go without that "real movie" experience.

Microwave popcorn has made getting bowlfuls of your favorite buttery treat as simple as pressing a few buttons. Many companies offer "movie style popcorn" with extra butter flavoring. But this buttery flavor comes with a price. An average 5-cup bag of movie popcorn has 15 grams of fat and 200 calories. Over 60% of the calories come from fat in this type of popcorn.

For those who want to save some calories, retailers also offer "light" versions of butter flavored popcorn. These varieties weigh in at an average of 5 grams of fat at 125 calories for the same 5-cup portion. The fat to calorie percentage for "light" popcorn is a manageable 29%.

Microwave popcorn has changed in the last few years with the addition of new flavors like Kettle Corn, a sweet and salty popcorn variation. Kettle Corn microwave popcorns are comparable to movie style butter flavors in calories and fat. They are sweet alternative to those who want something a little different for the movie-watching snack. Other sweet varieties of microwave popcorn available include caramel, cinnamon butter and honey butter. Of course, the do-it-yourself popcorn eater can add any sweet extras themselves. Sprinkling cinnamon, sugar, or even M and Ms into your popcorn can satisfy even the sweetest tooth.

For those who want something savorier, microwave popcorn is also available in cheddar flavors. White cheddar seems to be the most popular among retailers. Orville Redenbacher’s "Pour Over Cheddar" popcorn allows you to add a real cheese topping to your bowl and covers each kernel with the taste of cheddar cheese.

If microwave popcorn still doesn’t it cut it to enrich your home theater experience, you might consider investing in a movie popcorn machine. There is a range of options available for those who want fresh movie style popcorn in their very own homes.

The smallest models require tabletop space and produce enough in one cycle to fill roughly 4 one oz. bags. Most small models have a cycle speed of about 3 minutes, meaning that 92 ounces can be popped in an hour. Coming in at a weight of 45 pounds, a small model popper can fit on a large counter top in your game room or family room for easy access during movie watching sessions. A 4 oz. machine can range in price from $250 to $350. The next step up would be a 6 oz. machine that produces enough to fill 6 one oz. bags during the 3-minute cycle. These machines range from $400 to $600.

Home popping machines are also available in 8 oz., 12 oz. and 16 oz. styles. These models can cost anywhere between $500 and $1200 dollars, depending on the actual size and quality of materials used to build the machine.

If you want to save counter space in your home theater area, consider investing in a popcorn machine with a cart. The addition of a cart to your popcorn machine can increase the total price by $100 to $200 but will save space in your game room or family room. Most quality carts are made from powder coated to steel to remain sturdy and reliable throughout their use.

Many companies that offer home movie style popcorn machines also sell popcorn-making accessories. Popcorn portion packs make popcorn popping extra easy. They consist of corn kernels, special blends of seasoning salt and coconut oil. To use, you just tear open the packet and put the contents in your machine for perfect movie popcorn every time.

Movie popcorn is just not the same out of your regular bowls. To get an authentic movie popcorn experience you can purchase popcorn bags, boxes and buckets. Other necessities available are scoops, which come in both metal and plastic varieties. Kettle cleaning kits help to keep your machine in top working condition.

For variety, you can try a popcorn shake-on sampler to make interesting flavor combinations. Some popular popcorn shake-on flavors are barbeque, white cheddar, Parmesan, ranch, sour cream and onion, nacho cheese and jalapeno.

No matter whether you choose to microwave your popcorn or upgrade to a professional popping machine, popcorn will always be an essential movie treat