BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Samuel M. Rubin, who helped make popcorn the popular snack at movie theaters, has died. He was 85.
Rubin, known as "Sam the Popcorn Man," died Thursday in Boynton Beach, said his daughter, Karen Rubin. Popcorn became a staple at movie theaters during the Great Depression. From 1934 to 1940, the nation's annual popcorn harvest grew from 5 million to 100 million pounds.
Marty Winter, who worked with Rubin during their careers of more than 60 years in the movie concession business, said Rubin saw popcorn being made in Oklahoma City during a visit around 1930 and started selling it at concessions he controlled when he returned to New York.
But Rubin's daughter and another longtime business colleague, Carl Levine, said it was not until the early 1950s that Rubin began to sell popcorn in a major way.
At the time, his company, ABC Consolidated, now part of the Ogden Corporation, had the refreshments concession for major movie chains in the New York metropolitan area, including RKO, Brandt and Loews.
Rubin was likely the first to pop corn in machines on a widespread basis in theaters. He began by popping the kernels in Long Island City, N.Y., and trucking it to theaters but later made the treat in theaters.
Rubin was born on May 24, 1918, in Brooklyn, N.Y. He sold pretzels at age 6 and flags at 9. At 12, he went to work for Lazar, Stein & Landsman, ABC's predecessor company, filling vending machines in movie theaters, which did not yet have concession stands.
When a vending machine rolled and broke against the stage, he used it as counter to sell candy, a precursor of the modern movie concession stand.
He also developed movie-size candy bars and boxes, which could be sold for $1.50 instead of 35 cents, and sold liquor in Broadway theaters.