HOLLYWOOD — An independent theater operator has survived the COVID-19 pandemic by turning the staple snack of movie theaters everywhere into a thriving gourmet business.
Christian Meoli, owner of Arena Cinelounge Sunset, is now marketing nine flavors of gourmet popcorn, marketed as non-GMO, vegan, dairy and nut-free, with the highest quality ingredients possible.
“As an independent theater owner, I’ve had to be creative about the survival and expansion of my business,” Meoli said.
“I’ve taken my love and curation of new films and directed that energy to a true gourmet cinematic experience with an exemplary signature line of gourmet popcorn. Each bag sold supports independent cinema’s survival — in the most delicious of ways.’
Most of the nine flavors have a movie-related name. They include: Popcorn of the Living Dead – Cinnamon Churro with Crushed Pretzels, Eternal Popcorn of the Spotless Mind – Rosemary Salted Caramel, Natural Corn Killers – Naked with Sea Salt, APOPalypse Now – Jalapeno, Once Upon a Time in Popcorn – Mesquite Smoked Cheddar, Truffaut Truffle – Truffle, Arthouse Gold – Curry, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Popcorn – Sweet Chili Lime, and Meoli’s Bliss – Bourbon Caramel with Espresso Pretzels
“We wanted to offer an incredible gourmet selection,” Meoli said. “It was our mission to go where no popcorn ever really goes – especially designed for the cinephile’s palate.”
The humble beginnings of Arena Cinelounge Gourmet Popcorn began with the creation of Naked Sea Salt, a good quality starter blend that led to a brainstorm of ideas, including Rosemary Flavored Caramel, Truffle, Mesquite Smoked Cheddar, Sweet Chili Lime, and finally a truly experimental blend in the aptly titled Popcorn of the Living Dead.
“With Popcorn of the Living Dead, we wanted audiences to go in without knowing what to find,” Meoli said. “So, the end result became a layer of popcorn, then a secret layer under that, then a poster of a classic horror poster in the bag.”
Ultimately, titles like Popcorn of the Living Dead paved the way to officially bridge the gap between movies and popcorn. Poster artist Christopher Butler, who did the poster art of Chelsea Stardust’s “Satanic Panic,” was hired to do all the popcorn packaging.
Officially launched to the public at Arthouse Convergence on National Popcorn Day in January, Arena Cinelounge Gourmet Popcorn was set up at the Warner Media Launch as well as at the Variety Studio with 1,000 bags encompassing all nine flavors.
Del Ray Theaters in Florida were the first to pick up the popcorn for their theaters. At Sundance, Meoli also did a deal with The Mark to ensure festival attendees were able to sample the popcorn. Not long afterward, Entertainment Weekly featured the popcorn in their gift guide and Amazon included the popcorn in a special promotion for their film “The Vast of Night.”
Now, Meoli is selling the popcorn successfully online.
“The sales of our gourmet popcorn is now saving my theater from closing down — and in essence, saving the home for independent cinema and filmmakers … once kernel at a time.”
Arena Cinelounge’s signature gourmet popcorn can be purchased for home delivery via Grubhub and Postmates. It also can be found at Joan’s On Third, the Oaks Gourmet market, Element 129 in Culver City, and at the Arena Cinelounge.
Meoli originally founded Arena Cinelounge in 2012, when he saw the need for an art house cinema devoted to new indie films in Hollywood, and began exhibiting films in a 99-seat theatre located next to the Egyptian Theatre, which closed in 1992.
Independent Staff Report