The New York City Health Board has ruled that cinemas, restaurants and workplace cafeterias in NYC will no longer be able to sell sugary soft drinks in portions larger than 16 oz from March 12th, 2013. This has led to an outcry from theatre owners who claim – as sweets and drinks make up 25% of their total profit – that they will be in dire straights if not allowed to ply their customers with gargantuan buckets of fizzy pop.
The New York Executive Director for the National Association of Theatre Owners, the rather amazingly named Robert Sunshine (we’re finding it hard not to picture this guy as Willy Wonka – fizzy lifting drinks, anyone?) told the Deadline film blog that the group is “opposed to anyone telling us what we can eat and what we can drink”, and that the restrictions would have “a tremendous impact” on profits.
The new ruling is part of the Health Board’s anti-obesity initiative; sugary soft drinks account for a huge amount of calories, and are considered one of the worst offenders in the fight against fat – after all, it’s easy to forget how unhealthy they are, and they taste so darn good. Leaving aside the issue that no-one really needs to take a trough of Coca-Cola into a screening, the real revelation here is just how much cinemas (NYC cinemas, anyway) seem to depend on the money they make from drinks and snacks.
Most of us would agree that the cost of just being allowed through the front door of a cinema is already ridiculously extortionate. Fair enough, it does take rather a lot of money to screen films these days, but the idea that cinemas would crumble to ashes without the support that a few extra-large dangerously colourful drinks can provide is a little hard to believe.
Unfortunately, it is an idea that is founded in fact. Most modern cinemas have morphed into little more than popcorn factories, with the multiplexes being the worst offenders; these municipal boxes are a far cry from the old style picture houses, and have more in common with shopping malls than cinemas. For most cinemas, the cinema itself is merely a backdrop, something to rest your eyes on while your hands are busy lifting things up to your mouth. All things considered, we don’t have to stretch our minds too far to come to the conclusion that any significant restriction on the sale of refreshments would certainly spell trouble for Bob Sunshine and his Oompa-Loompas.
This isn’t the first time there has been a minor uproar over what viewers can and cannot procure at a cinema; cigarettes were the first to go, followed quickly by booze, but this NYC restriction is far from the beginning of the end for soft drinks. Smaller portions there may be, but cinemas will always have the option of charging more for less. You didn’t hear this from us, New Yorkers; pay for your tickets, but smuggle in your Mountain Dew.