Movies flop and fail, but there’s one thing at the theater that will never disappoint: the hot, buttery popcorn. There’s something special about movie theater popcorn that just can’t be matched by the microwaveable stuff, so here's the secret to recreating the best part about going to the movies. 

Oil Is Key

caramel, corn, sweet, popcorn
Sara Carte

Every theater makes their popcorn slightly differently, but the oil is vital. Some use canola, which has a clean, subtle taste. Others use a combination of canola and coconut oil for a unique taste, or cook the kernels in a mixture of oil and buttery salt. 

Don't Forget the Toppings

sweet, salt, kettle corn, cereal, corn, popcorn
Sara Carte

The kernels are the same as the ones at the grocery store, but theaters elevate their game with butter–sort of. Most theaters don't use real butter, but some form of buttery topping, which is basically just butter-flavored oil. The lower water content in oil makes for less soggy popcorn, something we can all get behind. 

Another reason movie theater popcorn is so good? Theaters aren't required to label the nutrition information on their products. This often means way more oil and salt than you’ll find in a bag of microwaveable popcorn. 

The Final Ingredient

corn, dairy, cottage cheese, butter, cereal, cream, sweet, popcorn, milk
Sara Carte

Last but not least, movie theater popcorn is better than the home-popped stuff simply because you’re eating it at the movies. The smell and taste of popcorn in a movie theater can be nostalgic for some, bringing back memories of childhood or first dates. 

This phenomenon is even backed up by science. Psychology researchers at the University of Southern California and Cornell have found that dim lights and movie trailers prompt people to eat popcorn, even if it’s stale. Powerful stuff. 

Make Your Own Buttery Topping

salt, sweet, butter, kettle corn, corn, caramel, popcorn
Kirby Barth

Don’t worry: while you can’t recreate the psychological factors at home, DIY-ing a buttery topping is far more doable. Clarify butter by melting a few sticks in the microwave, skimming off the top layer of foam, and saving the liquid underneath. Movie night just got that much better.