Saturday, June 18, 2011

The surprise in Mingala's concessions

Movie theater concessions get scarce mention here on the SEA Movie Theater Project. It's a topic which I generally don't pay much attention to, especially since I seldom snack when at the movies. For those with a yen to know, movie concessions in Thai theaters are more or less the same as in American theaters: unremarkable from a documentary stand-point. American pop-culture, spawn of American-style capitalism, has, after all, been a factor in Thailand for decades. Myanmar theaters, on the other hand, much like Myanmar society at large, lack the stamp of Americana. There are a few exceptions, however.

In all 7 of the Mingala-operated theaters in Yangon and Mandalay you can purchase - among other snackables - little plastic bags of caramel-coated popcorn at the concession stands. For all intents and purposes, these movie theater goodies approximate good old fashioned Cracker Jacks®, minus the classic rectangular box. One might be led to believe that Mingala was even trying to mimic this American junk food staple in their cinema halls.

On one a trip to the Nay Pyi Daw Cinema, I broke with my stoic ways and binged on a bag of these so-called Burmese Cracker Jacks. Munching through, sweetness caressing my taste buds, fingers tips a sticky mess, I reached bag's bottom only to come in contact with a foreign object. Maybe one of those little preservative packets that are in some snack foods, I guessed.

Gingerly pinching it between my digits, I withdrew the mystery object to reveal a little black packet stapled shut at one end. Black Tar, I wondered? China White? Nah, who would be so sinister? Then it dawned on me: this was truly a Burmese version of Cracker Jacks, complete with prize and all.

I removed the staple and withdrew my prize, eager to learn what knick-knacks are dispensed from the Burmese version of an American classic. It was a neatly folded piece of paper - crisp and new.

The little piece of paper unfolded into a brand new 100 Kyat note, an amount equivalent to roughly ten American cents. Considering that the bag of caramel-coated popcorn cost me 250 Kyat, I was curiously pleased to get 40 percent back on my purchase.

A few days later I asked some locals about my prize. Was this a usual thing or had I just gotten lucky? Apparently all denominations of Myanmar money can be won in these snacks, up to 1000 Kyat notes. Buying one is essentially like playing the lottery.

Myanmar might have lots of serious problems, but their version of Cracker Jacks is not one of them.

On a side note, movie theaters frequently earn the largest portions of their profit from concession sales.


  1. However, Mr Projectionist, who is the blonde girl in the third photo? If it's not the answer I want to hear, I won't return to your blog anymore! :)

  2. Good question, Iris. I know the answer to that. Can you guess the blond in the photo? Or better yet, which movie was playing when I snapped the shot? Obviously if you can guess the one you'll get the other. Answer correctly within three guesses and I'll send you a signed photograph, compliments of me.