NYC exhibitors escaped Mayor Bloomberg’s attempted soda ban last month. But potential future government regulation of revenue-boosting concessions still has theater owners and operators concerned. And frustrated. “[These] taxations are truly money grabs by the government”, Cinemark Food & Beverage VP Bob Shimmin said at a CinemaCon panel this morning. “They’re not trying to make people healthier, they’re trying to balance their budgets”. Bloomberg’s rule would have limited sales of sugary soft drinks to 16 oz.-sized cups — the smallest portion most theaters even offer. Pushing smaller cup sizes to adults would actually backfire, spins NATO’s Deputy Director of Government Affairs Todd Halstead, because it would lead to more purchasing of refills leading to larger in-theater consumption after all. He insists the NYC soda ban was just the tip of the iceberg: “What better way is there to institute a tax then to connect it to health?”
Other initiatives loom. Some exhibitors worry that instituting calorie counts on menus will create too much delay in getting patrons from the concessions line and into their seats. Theater owners who have already added healthier low-fat snacks, candies, and caffeine-free and diet beverages to their menus have done so expecting lower sales figures. But the benefits are twofold: A variety of healthier options can boost a theater’s sexiness to a certain subset of moviegoers boosting attendance and, Shimmin said, “it takes the ammunition away from legislators”.