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Coconut broil: AMC opts for fatter popcorn

Like the Marx Brothers, AMC is goin’ coconuts. Three years after a consumer health group attacked the cholesterol-raising oil that movie theater popcorn was popped in, Kansas City, Mo.-based AMC Entertainment has returned to using coconut oil to pop their popcorn.

Citing a survey that revealed their patrons preferred the high-fat coconut oil over the healthier sunflower oil, AMC theaters in the Kansas City area on Friday began offering patrons a choice between popcorn popped in coconut-oil or air-popped.

While an AMC spokesman said this switch back to coconut oil is confined to theaters in the Kansas City area, the spokesman could not say whether the return would eventually extend to the entire 1,900-screen chain.

Execs at AMC said they based their decision on a taste test given to area customers, who were asked to choose their favorite popcorn from four choices: popcorn popped in coconut oil, sunflower oil or canola oil or air-popped. The winner was the less healthy but tastier coconut.

AMC president Philip Singleton was quoted in the Kansas City Star as saying, “Our customers told us that they wanted the best possible taste from movie theater popcorn. However, we also recognize that some customers prefer a fat-free alternative.”

The industry-wide popcorn debate began in 1994 after the watchdog org Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report assailing the widely used coconut oil — likening the artery-clogging fat content (80 grams) of the average large popcorn to that of six Big Macs.

In response to the subsequent consumer uproar, theater chains across the country, including AMC, began switching to lower-fat alternatives.