movie_concession_091118_mnWe already know that Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman/CEO Michael Lynton, himself rail thin, keeps “cutting the fat” at Sony by laying off hundreds of staff who are integral to the studio’s operation. Now, in an address to theater owners at ShoWest that covered everything from the economy to 3D, Lynton’s remarks took a surprising turn when he focused on movie theater concession stands that he claims are making kids obese. Here are Lynton’s remarks on the subject:

lynton100“The final point I want to make today has to do with opening a different kind of window altogether a window of healthier foods at your concession stands.

I don’t mean close the window for popcorn, soda, and candy.  Audiences love them, and should always be able to buy them at your theaters. I can almost imagine the Romans eating popcorn and drinking Coke at the Coliseum 2,000 years ago. Or the Greeks munching on Sno-Caps at the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens.

I suggest you consider adding a few healthier items to your existing menu. I believe it’s the right thing to do your industry, for our audiences…and for America.  Here’s why:

It’s great for America because childhood obesity, and obesity in general, is an epidemic of major proportions, and requires everyone to chip in to stem the tide. According to the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, nearly one out of three young people are already overweight or obese.  That puts them at higher risk of diabetes, asthma, heart failure and a shorter life span.

By the way, young people and people of color are the most frequent moviegoers, and they are also the most at risk for the damaging health effects of obesity.

In response to this health care crisis, schools have changed their lunch programs and fast food outlets have begun to add healthier foods to their menus.  Even at our studio, we’ve added a daily healthy lunch special, and a subsidized salad bar in our commissary.

By bringing healthier snacks into your concession stands, you would be helping our country meet an urgent public health need.

Taking this step is also great for audiences and for your business because people want to see healthier foods in theaters, and when they do, they’ll buy them.

You don’t have to take my word on it. We commissioned a poll on the subject, surveying moviegoers at theaters in 26 locations around the country, and here’s what we found:

  • 2/3s of moviegoers overall and three-quarters of parents are likely to buy healthier options if offered – even at prices similar to what’s currently sold;
  • 42% percent of parents said they would buy concessions more often if healthier choices are available;
  • having healthy snacks available will encourage more frequent purchases by the 1/3 of moviegoers who currently choose not to make purchases at the concession stand;
  • 60% of parents said that healthier snacks would enhance their overall moviegoing experience.

A mother told our interviewer, “They should serve better quality low fat items.”

A teenage girl said, “they don’t have enough healthy foods.”

A father said, “we need a more diversified selection of treats appropriate to the health-conscious diet of our children.”

So, what kinds of food are we talking about?

Well, I don’t think spinach or broccoli’s a good idea.  And nobody wants to eat cauliflower while watching Spider-Man, or drink a 40-ounce cup of prune juice.

But in our survey people said they’d like to see things like:

  • fresh fruit, fruit cups, apples with dip;
  • veggies with dip;
  • yogurt;
  • granola bars and trail mix;
  • baked chips and apple chips;
  • and options like unbuttered, air-popped popcorn.

By the way, we all know some people sneak their own candy into the theater.  But look online and you’ll find many people who say they sneak a healthy snack – like a granola bar or a box of raisins – into the movies, too.

That’s not surprising, because nowadays, people are consuming food differently.  In fact, many of your theaters are located near Starbucks and Whole Foods and in malls where consumers are finding more nutritious food and beverage options.  As our survey made clear, audiences would love both a great theatrical experience and terrific snacks.

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing jokes about Kit-Kats the size of a Buick…Twizzlers that stretch from Los Angeles to Las Vegas…Hershey Bars as big as a surfboard.  Adding healthier foods to your menu can help change that stereotype – so long as the apples aren’t the size of pumpkins…

I know some of you are already bringing healthier foods and drinks into your snack bars.  Some theaters are using canola oil instead of coconut oil for your popcorn.  I applaud you for that, just as I appreciate what you’re doing to make your theaters eco-friendly.

At the same time, I know change can’t happen overnight, and some things will prove to be logistically or economically impossible.  But even small steps in the right direction can have a big impact.

I’m happy to announce today that the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has offered to help to advise on how to change your menus in a way that makes sense for your audiences and your business.  President Bill Clinton, who heads the Alliance with Governor Schwarzenegger and Clyde Yancy, President of the American Heart Association, says that they are eager to work with you on this effort.

I spoke earlier about how innovative you’ve been in keeping pace with cultural and technological changes.  Making healthier snacks available in your concession stands would be one more example of that kind of vision and leadership.”