|"I decided I had to
quit school to try and make us a living. My mother thought I
should stay in school, but she couldn't stop me from dropping out.
At the time, it was more important to me to eat than it was to get
At the age of 17 Kemmons made up his mind he
would never be poor again.
If Kemmons wasn't going to work for someone else, he was going
to have to think creatively. He had always loved the movies,
and often did odd jobs at the Memphian Theater in return for
admission to see the feature film. But in 1930, his thoughts
moved beyond what was happening up on the screen. Realizing
that the theater offered no snacks for moviegoers to munch on, he
saw the opportunity to create a market for himself.
"I got to thinking that I could sell popcorn there. So I
talked to the manager, and he talked to his boss, and they finally
decided I could put a popcorn machine out front. Then I went
down to see Tom O'Brien at United Fixture and Scale Company. I
told him I wanted to buy a popcorn machine and he showed me one he
had for $50".
His hunch about the untapped potential in theater concessions
proved correct "...so much in fact that his profits soon far
outstripped the theater manager's income", Kemmons recalls. "I
started selling popcorn for a nickel a bag, and I did well.
But I got to where I was making $40-$50 a week, while the theater
manager was only making $25. He kept counting the sacks I was
selling. Finally he came to me and said he was taking the job
away from me".
"I remember telling my mother then that I was going to get
myself a movie theater, and nobody else was ever going to take my
popcorn machine away from me". Several years later,
Kemmons did just that.