The packets make a racket, but potato chips still earn a spot in the Snack Hall of Fame

Welcome to the Snack Hall of Fame, an ongoing project in which Dominic Corry celebrates cinema’s most iconic edible accompaniments.

Now that we’ve squared away the holy trinity of movie snacks—popcorn, soda, ice cream—this project is gonna get increasingly subjective and regional. But I urge you to bear with me. Because I have thought about all this. A lot.

That thought process led me to conclude that potato chips should be the fourth entry in the Movie Snack Hall of Fame.

An iconic class of snack from any angle, most people don’t necessarily associate potato chips with going to the movies. It’s much more often perceived as an “at home” movie snack, but a retail trend at New Zealand’s largest cinema chain has rendered Bluebird Originals a quietly consistent presence in Kiwi theatres.

For as long as I can remember, you have been able to purchase the “Big Grab” sized (i.e. the tall, thin packet that contains about twice as much as a “small” packet) Bluebird Originals in the Ready Salted and Salt & Vinegar flavours at most Event Cinemas. And Twisties, too.

For some reason, the movie theatres only stock the Bluebird products that come in this “Big Grab” size. Which goes some way to explaining why they don’t have Chicken Bluebird Originals, as they have inexplicably never been part of the “Big Grab” line. That discrepancy aside, I have always appreciated being able to acquire chips at the movies, and especially in this size, which you usually only see in dairies and petrol stations. Ever tried to get a “Big Grab” size at the supey? It’s impossible!

But I am also aware that chips in cinemas are controversial. There is no shortage of people who get riled up about the noises that chip packets make. I am a world-class pedant when it comes to cinema etiquette (seriously people, the cellphone problem is out of control), but I’ve never been all that bothered by the sound of chip packets. Once you get ’em open, it’s not really an issue. But I acknowledge that others find this extremely annoying.

In my (kinda) vast experience attending movies in other countries (mainly the US), I have yet to see potato chips available in foreign cinemas. Still don’t know why it became a thing here in New Zealand.

But I am not complaining, because as any salty snack lover is aware, Salt & Vinegar Bluebird Originals are not only the best snack ever conceived in this country, they are one of New Zealand’s greatest achievements overall.

While I cannot deny that some local bias may be in play here, I have done my best to objectively find a remotely comparable chip all over the world. And nothing has ever even come close to the oddly astringent joy of a Salt & Vinegar Bluebird Original. S & V is of course a flavour elsewhere (although you’re more likely to find “Salt & Pepper” in the States), but nobody else has nailed the specific combination of taste and texture that Bluebird has perfected.

I am constantly giving ETA a chance to compete, and superficially their S & V chips are very similar to Bluebirds, but they’re simply never as good. I’ll eat them if they’re in front of me, for sure, but in my experience, ETA chips are more likely to have that “burnt” aspect that some chips arrive with. Bluebird has long perfected production processes that ensure no such chips end up in Bluebird packets, which only offer up reliably bright and pristine fried potato slices. With ridges.

It’s nice that they often have Twisties available at the theatre too, but those can be dangerous to eat in the dark. You’re likely to emerge from the theatre with a light orange dusting.

But once you get the pesky packet open, Salt & Vinegar Bluebird Originals are an extremely theatre-friendly food option that provides a texture and flavour hit unrivaled in traditional movie snacks. The same may not be able to be said of “Kettle” style potato chips, which generate a much louder crunch. But the thin brittle nature of Bluebird Originals means they get munched down with relative quiet.

Additionally, I get that some people enjoy the passivity of popcorn as movie snack, and I’m not averse to such mild pleasures, but compared to an S & V Bluebird Original, it’s like eating air.

The availability of potato chips at New Zealand theatres has helped us to realise that it’s not unreasonable to want to eat something with actual flavour while watching a movie. Which is why I am happy to welcome potato chips into the Snack Hall of Fame.