My local cinema technically has a whole concession stand dedicated to hot and savory offerings—soft pretzels, nachos, hot dogs—but I rarely see a line for it. Instead, there’s always a winding queue for the popcorn and candy counter, whose offerings are cheaper, more variable, and easier to maneuver inside a darkened theater. Ultimately, they just feel like more of a movie-length treat. So when Cinemark released a map of America’s favorite movie theater candy by state in honor of National Candy Day, I was excited to find that enthusiasm on full display.
Right off the bat, there’s something exciting about this data. The map is compiled from actual sales data, rather than something more dubious such as “internet searches” or self-reported poll results from a few hundred people online—so the candies listed really are the ones people are buying in each state. Hard numbers! Technically, “favorite” could indicate a few different things—either the candy most purchased at Cinemark locations or the most uniquely purchased at Cinemark in that state as compared to others. Either way, though, it’s backed up by real dollars, and that makes it more fun to gawk at the results.
Something else that’s delicious about this data set is that movie theater candy is a different beast from, say, convenience store candy, or grocery store impulse-buy candy. Anyone who enjoys Cookie Dough Bites or Twizzlers can understand this. Sure, you can technically find either one at a Walgreens or a Rite-Aid, but how often are you indulging in either one outside of a darkened theater? Milk Duds, Raisinets, Sno-Caps—all of them feel cinema-specific in a way that keeps them locked into a special category in our minds. So Cinemark’s data will indicate something totally different from other candy purveyors.
With that, let’s dig into the findings.
The map is based on 2022 concessions data at Cinemark’s roughly 320 locations. Savvy cartologists will note that not every state is represented by a candy choice; this is because Cinemark only operates in 42 out of 50 states. Keep your secrets, Missouri!
Here’s the full list of favorite candies by state:
- Alabama: Twizzlers
- Alaska: SweeTart Ropes Rainbow Punch
- Arizona: Peanut M&M
- Arkansas: Sour Punch Straws Assorted Rainbow
- California: Red Vines
- Colorado: Peanut M&M
- Connecticut: Peanut M&M
- Delaware: Twizzlers
- Florida: Buncha Crunch
- Georgia: Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers
- Idaho: Red Vines
- Illinois: Buncha Crunch
- Indiana: Cookie Dough Bites
- Iowa: M&M Plain Milk Chocolate
- Kansas: Reese’s Pieces
- Kentucky: Cookie Dough Bites
- Louisiana: Peanut M&M
- Maryland: Twizzlers
- Massachusetts: Peanut M&M
- Michigan: Buncha Crunch
- Minnesota: Buncha Crunch
- Mississippi: Sour Punch Straws Assorted Rainbow
- Montana: Cookie Dough Bites
- Nevada: Red Vines
- New Hampshire: Peanut M&M
- New Jersey: Peanut M&M
- New Mexico: Peanut M&M
- New York: Cookie Dough Bites
- North Carolina: Trolli Sour Brite Crawlers
- Ohio: Cookie Dough Bites
- Oklahoma: Peanut M&M
- Oregon: Red Vines
- Pennsylvania: Peanut M&M
- South Carolina: Twizzlers
- South Dakota: Cookie Dough Bites
- Tennessee: Reese’s Pieces
- Texas: Peanut M&M
- Utah: Red Vines
- Virginia: Peanut M&M
- Washington: Red Vines
- West Virginia: Cookie Dough Bites
- Wisconsin: Peanut M&M
The most popular of them all was Peanut M&M’s, which 13 states claimed as a favorite. For some reason, Peanut does seem to be the leading movie theater M&M. Why do you think that is? You’d think it would be something less associated with allergens. Maybe that yellow bag is easier to locate in the dark.
As usual, Twizzlers and Red Vines have cleaved the nation in two—with the latter eking out a narrow victory, picking up six states to Twizzler’s four. That differs from what Instacart data tells us about people’s licorice habits, but of course, customer selections are dependent upon what their local Cinemark happens to sell.
And who could forget Cookie Dough Bites and Buncha Crunch, the favorites in seven and four states, respectively—two candies that began their existence exclusively in movie theaters? Both were released in the mid-1990s, and as such, they seem to enjoy every bit of millennial nostalgia that all pop cultural touchstones from that era are afforded. I do believe I chose Buncha Crunch for my 1997 viewing of The Lost World, and maybe 1996’s Jack as well.
Assuming your state made the list, how do you feel about your chosen candy? We’ll never know what Hawaii’s favorite candy is, but at least we can argue about Twizzlers vs. Red Vines till we’re red (heh) in the face.