Fake Popcorn Butter: Everything You (N)ever Wanted To Know

Movie theater employees answer all your "butter" faucet-related questions.

For some people, the only reason to see a movie in the theater is to buy that delicious movie theater popcorn and then cover it with that delicious liquid butter flavoring that comes out of a faucet. For other people, everything about movie theater popcorn is disgusting, especially that liquid butter faucet.

However you feel about movie theater popcorn, it’s likely that no one can persuade you to change your mind. Your opinion (especially about that liquid butter) is uncompromising. Because these opinions are so strong, and summer blockbuster season is upon us, we asked former movie theater employees on Facebook to share everything you may -- or may not -- want to know about that butter machine.

  • Is it real butter?

    Of course it’s not real butter. One former employee said that it was just warmed canola oil. Another explained that the butter in his theater was "'butter flavor,' which is oil with artificial butter flavoring and coloring in it." So the type of "butter" will vary from theater to theater, but it will always be fake butter.

  • How often is the butter faucet cleaned?

    Answers to this question varied from chain to chain and theater to theater. Responses ranged from "the butter faucet gets cleaned nightly” to "the answer is: never." One former employee, who worked at a major chain theater for two years as a teenager, replied, "Honestly never brought up cleaning the butter squirters. Not once." It seems like the cleaning regimen depends on the motivation levels of the theater managers and their employees.

  • Can you buy this liquid "butter"?
    Amazon.com

    Yep. This gallon jug of “Butter Flavored Popcorn Topping” can be yours for only $16.79 from Amazon, and has a four-star customer rating. If this is something that you actually want to purchase, you should probably also buy some Flavocol. Flavocol is used when cooking the popcorn, not as a topping; it’s basically salt with a bunch of other stuff to give the popcorn that movie theater flavor and color.

  • Can you buy the "butter" faucet?

    Any home theater experience would not be complete without your own hot butter dispenser. Depending on how fancy you feel, you can get two basic types: A dispenser with a hand pump will cost around $150; for the wealthier "butter" connoisseur, an automatic model can be had for only $799.

  • Can a fake scientist teach you how to pump fake butter?

    “Professor” HT Theater has several YouTube videos that walk you through how to operate and maintain your own popcorn contraptions. His medical degree might not be legit, but anyone passionate enough to buy a lab coat and make these videos probably knows what he’s talking about.

  • How unhealthy is it?

    There are a few brands that claim to be cholesterol and trans fat-free, but according to WedMD, you're looking at "400 to 1,200 calories, with one to three days' worth of saturated fat and up to 1,500 milligrams of sodium." That’s pretty unhealthy no matter which one you buy. But if you love movie theater popcorn, you probably already knew it was unhealthy and don’t really care.