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The Popcorn Kid

My friend Guy recently sent me a link to an obscure sitcom that only ran for six episodes back in 1987: The Popcorn Kid.

The Popcorn Kid starred Bruce Norris as Scott Creasman, a high school junior who works at the Majestic, an old-style, single screen movie theater located in Kansas City, Missouri. Scott works in the theater’s concession stand along with three of his classmates. There’s Willie Dawson, the African-American star football player; Gwen Stottlemeyer, the sensible, intelligent, and down-to-earth girl; and Lynn Holly Brickhouse, the ditsy and beautiful blonde cheerleader. Also working at the Majestic are Marlin Bond, the projectionist who perhaps has spent too much time cooped up in his booth; and Leonard Brown, manager of the theater and pseudo father figure to the kids.

The characters’ roles are established in the pilot episode. Scott works at the Majestic, and wants to work in the movie business somehow, someday. He’s got a crush on the airheaded Lynn Holly, even though it’s obvious to the audience (and everyone else) that he is destined to end up with Gwen (who shows affection toward Scott). Willie is always late to work because of football practice. Marlin the projectionist plays an aloof Kramer-esque character, constantly quoting scenes from movies that must have gone over 90% of the viewing audience’s head, and manager Leonard is a stereotypical cranky-but-means-well manager who reminded me of Red, the father from That ’70s Show.

Of the six episodes that exist, none are particularly deep, even by sitcom standards. In the pilot episode, off-camera owners threaten to convert the Majestic into a modern multiplex, until Scott earns the theater a stay of execution by convincing the owners the landmark Majestic is worth more as a tax write off. Two of the six episodes revolve around Lynn Holly: in “There She Is, Vic Damone,” Scott tries to find Lynn Holly’s talent to help her win a beauty pageant, and in “The Break Up,” Lynn Holly breaks up an boyfriend who has graduated high school and joined the marines, and Scott ends up as the convenient scapegoat. In “Career Day,” the students decide what they want to do after their stints at the Majestic, which leads to conflict between Scott and his father.

The final two episodes are also the strangest. In “A Day in the Life of Ed Asner,” the theater puts on a film festival in honor of Ed Asner. After Asner arrives at the theater, a tornado appears out of nowhere, which cancels the festival and forces all the employees (along with Asner) down into the basement. Marlin convinces Asner to reenact a scene from one of his old films, and then the episode ends. Some of the jokes in this episode are weird, while others never pay off.

In “A Car, a House, a Mouse and a Louse,” the sixth and final episode, the Majestic is robbed by the world’s most polite and innocent crook. First, the crook has Leonard open the theater’s safe. When that nets next to nothing, he then has Scott retrieve the cash register till from the concession stand. When even that gets him next to nothing, he has all the employees (along with one customer) empty their pockets, which nets the criminal $22. In a final act of desperation, he takes the hubcaps and stereo from Willie’s newly acquired ’53 Chevy. By the end of the episode, I began to wonder how the Majestic was able to keep the lights on while supporting six full time employees. Perhaps the fact that there wasn’t a seventh episode was my answer.

For a show that almost entirely took place in a movie theater, The Popcorn Kid never mentioned any modern movies. It would have been great to see posters from 80s films and maybe even episodes that references those films, but instead we get Milton showing The Day the Earth Stood Still and a tribute to Ed Asner. I get that the Majestic wasn’t your average, mainstream multiplex, but for a show filmed in 1987, save for the neon pink lights and Lynn Holly’s hair, The Popcorn Kid doesn’t feel very 80s at all.

Compared to more successful sitcoms, episodes of The Popcorn Kid lack the punch we’re used to. The conflicts aren’t resolved in any grand way. When saves the Majestic from a modern face lift, it is done off screen and over the phone. When he shares the good news with his co-workers, they barely offer a half-hearted “hooray.”

It’s obvious that the show was just ramping up, and it’s easy to imagine where things might have gone in future episodes. The love triangle between Scott, Lynn Holly and Gwen obviously would have developed over time. Maybe Scott would have become a supervisor at the Majestic, and Willie might have developed into more than just a high school athlete. As it is none of that happened, and the employees of the Majestic remain trapped in the spring of 1987, trying to make it through another day at the concession stand forever.

If you want to check out the show for yourself, here is a YouTube playlist that contains all six episodes. Enjoy!

Link: The Popcorn Kid (YouTube)

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1 comment to The Popcorn Kid

  • Charles Pearson

    I’m thinking the reason the show didn’t mention recent movies is that the Majestic was a re-run movie house (not sure if that is the correct term): essentially a movie house that specialized in showing classic and old movies. Before the advent of VCRs and the popularity of rental places like Video Blockbuster, the only way to see old movies that were uncut and without commercials were old movie houses like the Majestic. In my early college days I would regularly visit the Sunshine Theater and watch movies like “Arsenic & Old Lace”, “Forbidden Planet” and “Gone with the Wind”. It was awesome watching those films on a screen that was 30-40 wide instead of a 10 inch B&W TV in my bedroom.

    By the late 80’s those movie houses pretty much shutdown thanks to the VCR. Some theaters do occasionally show old classic movies but those are limited releases of remastered films. As a result “The Popcorn Kid” really came out about 10 years too late to have any relevance to the majority of the TV audience. If the show was historically accurate the Majestic would have closed when the main characters of the show were still in elementary school.

    So what is the Sunshine theater doing now? Instead of showing movies, the removed all the seats and the theater is now a music venue featuring small bands with loyal fans. I saw “They Might Be Giants” there four years ago.

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