Back in my day, tracking down fan merch was a task that had to be done in person. Whether I was finagling my way through a crowd of 7-year-olds getting their ears pierced at Claire’s or giving myself a pep talk before walking into a dark, intimidating Hot Topic, my favorite bands and artists’ T-shirts were only available at brick-and-mortar stores or concerts. Even then, concert merch lines were a headache — but it was all worth it to prove my loyalty to the fan base. Now, though, die-hard fans have a new, unexpected way to show their unwavering commitment to their favorite musicians: popcorn buckets.
With Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour and Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour regularly selling out of $500-plus nosebleed seats, many fans were priced out. Enter: the concert movie. Swift’s debuted on Oct. 13, made $123.5 million globally during its opening weekend, and has a 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé will hit theaters on Dec. 1. And though fans are excited to finally get The Visuals they’ve been waiting for, popcorn buckets have unexpectedly become a hot topic of conversation too.
AMC is offering an exclusive promotion for Swift’s moviegoers: a souvenir cup for $9.99 plus a large drink, a plastic popcorn tub, and a large popcorn for $14.99, or a chic, pink popcorn tin and large popcorn for (what else?) $19.89 before tax. Bey followed suit, and AMC will be selling exclusive Renaissance popcorn tins that feature her silhouette in her signature silver for $22.99 with a large popcorn.
I’m sorry, but as someone who just Venmo’d my friend $29.49 for one (1!) movie ticket at an AMC theater and has snuck in my own food to avoid the overpriced concessions, I can say that means some people are spending nearly $50 to watch a concert movie while eating popcorn out of a bucket with their fave’s face on it. According to my fan girl math calculations, you’re either a nepo baby or Daddy Warbucks (wait, was Daddy Warbucks a nepo baby?) if that seems financially reasonable to you.
“I have no clue what I'm ever going to do with them. One day I'll come up with a use, but will I ever get rid of them? No.”
Yet, some people think popcorn merch is just a sign of the star power Taylor and Beyoncé have. “There's the unique, kitsch factor to [popcorn buckets]. It’s unexpected, which makes it more desirable to fans,” says Jake Viswanath, Bustle’s entertainment writer, a self-proclaimed “king of merch,” and certified Swiftie. “If it's there and if it's Taylor Swift- or Beyoncé-related my instinct is [to] just get it and worry about the money and what to actually do with it later.” He has yet to figure out what to do with his pink popcorn tin but mused about using it as a plant pot.
Marina Watts, Bustle’s entertainment news and strategy editor, opted for the souvenir cup rather than a popcorn bucket but has yet to fill it with pens and highlighters on her desk as she initially intended. “Do I think every artist could do this and get away with it? Probably not,” she says. “But as someone who was just like, ‘I don't have the money to go to the Eras Tour,’ I was kind of like, ‘Screw it. Just buy the soda cup,’ and if you’re already going to buy popcorn, what’s the extra $5?”
Beyond an extra $5, people are clearly willing to splurge for these artists. I mean, if either singer came out with branded menstrual cups or transitional sunglasses, I bet there’d be a line around the block of every CVS full of Swifties and BeyHive members waiting for them to drop. Then again, those two items are at least a bit more useful.
But perhaps the appeal of popcorn bucket merch is that it inherently is a weird item to covet, and the fans are in on the joke. TikToker @1989vinyl sarcastically explained to her followers that the bucket can be used as a trash can, a place to store all of your Eras Tour bracelets, an ice bucket, or even an urn. Another Swiftie stuffed her popcorn bucket with mini disco balls in the name of home decor.
The options are endless if you get creative. I suggest lugging it to 7/11 for the next “Bring Your Own Cup Day” or keeping it easily accessible if you ever need to humanely trap a mouse and release it back into the wilderness or something. You never know what might come up!
So go ahead and tote around your popcorn bucket merch proudly. And if you change your mind, know that people are reselling them online for a casual $60 or even $90. Find solace in the fact that there’s a secondhand market if you find yourself in financial trouble after paying the price for fandom. For some people, though, a price can’t be put on this sort of community.
“I have no clue what I'm ever going to do with them,” Viswanath says. “One day I'll come up with a use, but will I ever get rid of them? No. I'd rather get rid of my firstborn.”