Why ice cream is our next inductee to 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.

In the holy trinity of movie snacks—popcorn, soda, ice cream—ice cream is the only one that can feasibly stand alone from the other two. If you have a soda, you need popcorn to balance out the undiluted sweetness. If you have popcorn, you need a soda to relieve you from the intense saltiness. An ice cream enhances both, but if you can only get one thing, it is the way to go.

Going to the movies while growing up in New Zealand, the ice cream was probably the most glamorous snack available at the theatre, and remained a vital part of any visit I made well into adulthood.

In my anecdotal experience—reminder: the Snack Hall of Fame is highly subjective—the ice cream played a more central role in Antipodean movie-going than it did in places like the UK or the States. Or at the very least, ice cream in a cone did.

When I eventually started going to the movies regularly in those other places, I don’t think I ever once encountered a scooped ice cream in a cone. It was generally all packaged items on a stick or ice cream sandwiches. Which is sadly what is mostly available in New Zealand theatres these days.

The big chains here still mostly offer a chocolate-dipped double scoop in a sugar cone (i.e. the sweeter, darker cone like what you get with a Trumpet or Cornetto), and many of them promise (but rarely make available) a chocolate-with-nuts variation of the same, but generally speaking, the emphasis is on packaged ice cream treats of the “deluxe” variety.

I enjoy packaged ice cream treats, but I prefer the more blue collar variations—your Jelly Tips, your Bubble O’Bills, your Toppas (RIP). I never got onboard the Magnum train, which normalised a much-too-thick chocolate coating and pretentious flavours. Derivations of this “fancy” style are mostly what you’ll find in a movie theatre almost anywhere in the world nowadays, sometimes on a stick, sometimes not.

As with many snacks, I am sadly somewhat stuck in the past. I’m at a point now where I think I would sacrifice a limb (okay, maybe a finger) just to have one Rocky Dip again. But Rocky Dips appear to be extinct.

For the uninitiated, a Rocky Dip is a chocolate and nuts-covered single—but very large—scoop of vanilla ice cream on a flat-bottomed cone made of the “regular” cone material, which has a softer and thinner texture than a sugar cone, and is sometimes called a “wafer” cone. These stumpy little wafer cones held aloft a gravity-defying, mango-shaped pile of scooped vanilla ice cream much larger than the cone itself. Like all movie ice creams, they were pre-made and stored in a freezer, coming out rock(y) hard, but the human factor was always evident.

In addition to being the only ice cream you could place standing up on a flat surface, the Rocky Dip also had optimum structural integrity for a snack-combining ritual that I suspect may have originated in New Zealand: once you got through the chocolate and nuts and the vanilla ice cream was exposed, true libertines would then…dip…it into their bucket of popcorn, pieces of which would adhere to the slightly softened ice cream, creating an appealing collision of sweet and salty that predated the mainstreaming of the salted caramel flavour. I even recall that at one point, in the post-Rocky Dip era, there was a sugar cone varietal that had ice covered in chocolate AND popcorn. That was fun.

But I need to stop living in the past. The Rocky Dip is gone forever. When a chocolate-and-nuts scoop vanilla ice cream is actually available—as mentioned earlier, there is always picture of this kind of ice cream at the big chains, but they are almost always out of them—I sometimes get one to try and recreate my Rocky Dip memories. But the sugar cone doesn’t do it for me. And the two vertically-aligned spherical scoops style, as opposed to one big fat-ass scoop, is less appealing, and more likely to fall off your cone if you dip it into a bucket of popcorn.

When one of the major chains switched over to sugar cone ice creams in the ’90s, I used to stop by their rival chain on my way to the theatre to pick up a Rocky Dip, such was my commitment to this light bulb-shaped delight. Sorry, I started living in the past again.

I find myself often wishing that you could get some kind of ice cream sundae at the movies. It’s no doubt too impractical for the conveyor-belt retail aspect of modern movie-going, but the idea of having a little bowl of vanilla soft serve with whatever combinations and toppings I desired sounds pretty good to me. Yes, I want a McFlurry at the movies. A guy can dream.

Or at the very least, I wish you could get a Jelly Tip at the movies. Why are movie chains snobs about the ice creams of the people? Why do they only sell “fancy” ice creams?

These extremely important complaints aside, ice cream is unquestionably an essential movie snack. Welcome to the Snack Hall of Fame.