Company aims to improve movie popcorn

Baja Innovation's Flavor Funnel was designed to "distribute the butter more evenly."

ORLANDO -- Someone has come up with a better mousetrap for theater concession stands.

Nothing is more familiar in the moviegoing experience than buttered popcorn. But Baja Innovations is here at ShowEast marketing its Flavor Funnel on the premise that concessionaires have been doing a lousy job of buttering their popcorn for decades.

"Myself and friends and a million other people have always been disgusted by how the butter runs out once you get down to the middle of the popcorn," Baja president and Flavor Funnel inventor Bradley Cimo said. "This helps distribute the butter more evenly."

A long, plastic gizmo that's stuck in the middle of popcorn containers, the funnel has holes for leaking butter throughout. Baja has been marketing the product for six months and is staffing a booth on ShowEast's large trade-show floor for the first time.

Similarly seeking to improve on the status quo, companies like Utah-based Simply Right are demonstrating environmentally friendly cleaning products to theater operators roaming the show floor of the exhibition confab. The green products tend to sell for about 20% more than conventional cleaning materials, but the pitch is that the higher-priced product creates greater goodwill with the moviegoing public.

"It's like organic food products at the supermarket," a rep at one such booth said Wednesday. "So we hope this takes off just like Whole Foods did."

There's lots of show-floor hubbub about products and services connected to 3D cinema these days, and Katherine Beres of Advanced Special Lighting said the burgeoning technology has added an extra dimension to its business line.

"3D has increased our business because 3D lamps burn brighter and have a shorter life," she said.

In a sideline business, Beres' suburban Chicago outfit offers 3D-eyeware washers touted as superior to the commercial washing machines now used in the industry.

"Those leave spots on the glasses," she said. "Ours don't."

Elsewhere on the floor and in several adjacent demo suites, manufacturer reps are huddling with prospective buyers of 4K digital projectors, a next-generation technology in digital cinema.

Sony Electronics, the first to offer the higher-resolution 4K systems, said Wednesday that its worldwide installations have reached 5,000 screens, with orders being processed for 2,000 more. Playing catch-up, Christie, Barco and NEC also are offering 4K projectors as well, using a 4K chip from DLP.

Dolby is demonstrating its 3D-projection system and the recently introduced Dolby Surround 7.1, a seven-speaker theatrical audio system.

But despite the ever-expanding array of digital gadgetry promoted at ShowEast, candy and other food products remain the sweet spot of activity on its trade-show floor.

Yet even there, new twists on old themes are being tried. Surprisingly, it's taken until now for the maker of Red Vines to do a big push for a grape-flavored variant called -- quite unsurprisingly -- Grape Vines.

ShowEast concludes its four-day run at the Marriott Orlando World Center on Thursday with events including an evening awards banquet.