Art collector Odetta Medich left her home country of Lithuania to live in Sydney, but she still remembers fondly the unusual snacks and beverages she enjoyed at the movies in the onetime Soviet territory—especially a traditional beerlike drink called kvas. “We used to buy it outside the cinema from a lady dressed in a white doctor’s coat, serving it from a large rusting cylinder drum with a little tap at the side,” she recalls.
Americans may not drink much beer at the movies like the Lithuanians—at least, legally—but snacking is, undeniably, a central part of cinema-going in the United States, as well as abroad. And while popcorn may be popular in movie theaters worldwide, there are still traditionalist holdouts in every country, where unusual local treats are still offered at the concession counter.
“You have to order something to eat—it’s a required part of the movie experience,” says Charles Runnette, editorial director of entertainment hub Movieline.com (and occasional T+L contributor).
For travelers, a trip to a subtitled movie in a foreign land is a great way to soak up some culture—and get a taste of what the locals like to munch on while taking in the country’s latest action, comedy, or chick flick. Palates vary widely across the globe, so movie snacking is bound to be an adventure.
In Japan, for example, a country that practically invented quirky comestibles, the movie snacks of choice are baked fish skeletons coated with soy and sugar. South Koreans adore fishy snacks as well, but they also go mad for roasted chestnuts. And in Moscow, VIP theater patrons indulge in—what else—beluga caviar.
And don’t be surprised to see strange cinema snacks in U.S. theaters too. Concessions are of course big business here; the country’s largest movie theater chain, Regal, sold almost $860 million worth of food and drinks in 2009—about 27 percent of its revenue. And to increase sales, Regal is experimenting with new offerings, many of which are sure to shock the popcorn, Milk Duds, and Coke crowd. Egg rolls, beef jerky, and even frozen soft drinks with sour apple, wild cherry, and blue raspberry–flavored syrups are just a few new and unusual items currently being tested in local markets.
Check out our list of the world’s strangest movie snacks—and leave the Junior Mints for later.