The truth about butter and dogs and FD&C Yellow #6

That’s not really butter, is it? Sure it is, and Kevin Costner has a wonderful sense of humor. No, it’s partially hydrogenated soybean oil. So why not melt a few hundred tubs of Land O Lakes instead? Says one popping-oil supplier, ”Real butter goes rancid too quickly.” Yum. And speaking of dairy, what about the cheese? The ingredients that give nacho topping that otherworldly pallor include cheese whey, partially hydrogenated soybean oil (again), sodium stearoyl lactylate, FD&C yellow #6, and disodium inosinate. Just like Mom used to make. “Partially hydrogenated oils are just plain terrible,” says NBC News’ Dr. Bob Arnot. “They’re believed to put women at substantial risk of heart disease and breast cancer…even in small amounts. The sad part is, with the right ingredients—blue corn, high-fiber beans, and good-quality cheese—you could make something decent.”

How long do they let those hot dogs roast? Movie chains claim to take overcooking seriously, though none we questioned could provide any specific procedure. “We do whatever it takes to maintain freshness,” says Phil Smitley of Carmike. One manager who says his theater doesn’t sell franks anymore admits “when we did, we’d let them sit two hours max. After that, weenies start to prune out.”

Why won’t they give me water? “The answer is stupid,” says an AMC manager. “Our stands don’t have running water, and the new Coke towers don’t have spigots.” However, most chains told EW they’ll give you a cup of ice. And there’s usually a fountain by the bathroom.

What’s the deal with buy-in-bulk candy? “Two words,” says the president of a company that sells bulk dispensers, “impulse and variety. People can mix and match. You can’t beat that.” But don’t expect a bargain. “At $8 a pound? Are you kidding?” says the supplier. And don’t expect much in the way of health. “We don’t pretend to be health food. But we’re no worse than anything else there.”

How do I tell if the popcorn’s fresh? Take a look at the popper. “When those babies are turning out fresh popcorn at maximum output, they get caked with goo,” a theater manager says. “They should look very funky.”

Is there an official policy against bringing in food? “We don’t allow it,” says one UA exec. ”It’s like walking into a restaurant with your own food.” But you won’t go to jail. “It’s a hard policy to enforce,” adds a Loews exec. “If you get militant, you piss off customers.” And if your kids have food allergies? Bring a doctor’s note, says the UA executive, and “we’ll make an exception.”

Why no beer, like at ballparks? “Isn’t it obvious?” says a Loews exec. “That behavior is hard to control.” But some chains do now serve beer (just like those civilized Euro-theaters). And the future is hardly dry. “We’re building new theaters with VIP sections,” he says. “With the right film, we’ll fix you a drink.”