Palace Cinemas is the largest chain of art-house cinemas in Australia, with 20 theaters, employing more than 500 people and selling 3-4 million tickets per year. So it was no small decision to use only olive oil to pop their popcorn.
The cinema chain is owned by Antonio Zeccola who grew up in Muro Lucano, in Southern Italy’s Basilicata region and whose large family migrated to Australia in the early 1950s.
His Italian background helps explain the popular cinema’s many innovations such as their important program of foreign film festivals including the annual Lavazza Italian Film Festival, their serving of quality barista-made Italian coffees as well as the use of only olive oil in the making of their popcorn.
Olive oil, after all, has always been the essential component of regional cooking in Basilicata.
Popping popcorn using olive oil also turns what many people class as “junk food” into a far healthier option.
Popcorn in itself is good for you as it is whole grain, low in fat and a good source of fiber. But in cinemas it is almost always popped in palm or coconut oil making it high in unhealthy saturated fats. For example a medium-sized serving of popcorn can have between 33 and 60 grams of saturated fat.
Using olive oil instead means popcorn can be significantly lower in saturated fat.
Palace Cinema’s popcorn was even recognized by Health Smart Magazine, winning the Smart Snack of the Year way back in 2008.
The Palace Cinema group has the logo “Share our Passion.” One can only hope that more cinemas will do just that, at least when it comes to adopting this healthier alternative of using olive oil in the preparation of their popcorn. The market is huge and the possible health benefits could be enormous.
According to the Popcorn Board, a trade group funded by U.S. popcorn processors, Americans consume 16 billion quarts of popcorn annually — or 51 quarts per man, woman and child — with about 30 percent of that outside the home in places like cinemas. A simple switch to using olive oil could be just the ticket.