Movie Theaters Lobby to Keep Patrons in the Dark

Popcorn: a huge moneymaker for theatersThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is about to issue a new rule forcing movie theaters to disclose nutritional information for the prepared snacks they serve, including hot dogs, pretzels and popcorn, but the National Association of Theatre Owners is lobbying FDA and congressional staffers to exempt theaters from the requirement. Theaters argue the rule is an unwarranted intrusion into their business, since people come to movie theaters to see movies, not to eat food. "It's dinner and a movie, not dinner at a movie," says Gary Klein, general counsel for the theater owners' group. The stakes are high for theaters. Sales of popcorn, sodas and snacks generate up to one third of their revenue. David Ownby, the chief financial officer of Regal Entertainment Group, the country's largest theater chain, recently disclosed at an investor presentation that a bucket of popcorn costs theaters just 15 or 20 cents to make, and sells for about six dollars. The Center for Science in the Public Interest found a large dry popcorn purchased at Regal had 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat. Adding butter adds 260 more calories. The major theater chains already report nutritional information in California, where state law currently requires it, but theater owners are protesting being forced to disclose the information elsewhere, saying it should be voluntary, that people don't go to the movies that often and when they do go, they really don't care about the nutritional content of their snacks anyway.