NYC Movie Theaters Fight Back Against Mayor’s Big Soda Ban

While hit new movies might make millionaires out of actors, directors and key grips, movie theaters often make little to no money on the actual ticket sales of high-profile, first-run movies. Instead, they depend on those movies to bring in customers to pay big bucks for huge drinks and buckets of popcorn. Thus, you can imagine why theater owners in New York City aren’t exactly doing somersaults in celebration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban of large sodas.

The NY Times reports on theater owners’ efforts aimed at holiday moviegoers to argue their case in the court of public opinion.

In at least one Manhattan theater, employees sported T-shirts that stated, “I picked out my beverage all by myself,” while the marquee at a multiplex in Brooklyn asked people to “Say No to the N.Y.C. Ban” followed by the URL for

New Yorkers can expect these anti-ban efforts to ramp up in the coming weeks, with the NYC Board of Health set to hold a public hearing on the matter on July 24.

A movie exhibitor lobbyist tells the Times that obesity “should be handled through education,” and that no one “should be told what they can do and what they can’t do.”

We’re assuming he is cool with those laws that prohibit murder and theft, but we get his point.

The Mayor and his crew believe that the Board of Health has authority to regulate the sale of soda at restaurants, theaters, delis and any other establishment that falls under the Board’s direct authority. Bloomberg believes this is a public health issue tantamount to the ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other places.

However, opponents of the ban point out that it’s much easier to make the public health argument for smoked tobacco, as a person can be negatively affected by cigarette and cigar smoke without smoking a cigarette or cigar. We’ve yet to see a variety of soda pop that adds calories, sugar and caffeine to the system of someone sitting in the immediate vicinity of the person consuming said beverage.

Theater owners say they would take a hard hit to their bank accounts if the ban were to go into effect, as some venues don’t currently sell any drinks smaller than 32 oz. The ban would limit non-diet sodas to 16 oz.

“We are bewildered by the proposal to choose an ineffective gimmick to address a critical health issue,” a rep for the AMC chain of theaters tells the Times.

Meanwhile, a rep for the Mayor’s office defends the proposal and says, “The [Boar of Health] is designed not to be subject to political pressure… It’s designed to make decisions about public health based on science.”

At Movies and Beaches, Soda Industry Makes Its Case


Edit Your Comment

  1. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    Duh, just charge more for the size-limited soda. It’s not like people will notice, they’re already used to paying $4 for a soda in the theater.

  2. Hi_Hello says:

    Easy work around (might even generate more money).

    Sell 16 oz unlimited refill for the price just higher than a 32 oz.

    I doubt people would leave during a movie for a refill. They might do it at after the movie.

    • Marlin says:

      That or buy 1 FULL 16oz cup of soda and get a 32oz cup of ice for free. ;-)

      • Hi_Hello says:

        I was thinking of that too but then you have people who get 32 oz of soda with no ice.

        • GrayMatter says:

          So? It is my understanding that the ice costs more than the soda. WIN-WIN for the theater!

          /s (sort of)

      • MarkFL says:

        How about this: Sell individual refillable 32-ounce cup. Offer a discount on two 16-ounce drinks when you bring in the theater’s cup. Customer gets drink, theater doesn’t have to buy as many cups, and because the cup retains value people will hang on to it to use next visit, so there’s less trash to clean up.

        By the way, the idea of selling two 16-ounce drinks instead of one 32-ounce drink (not using the suggestion above) means more cups, more trash, more waste. Not a good thing at a stadium.

    • Murph1908 says:

      This was my thought on what would happen all over the city.

      Most restaraunts already offer free refills. Is Bloomburg going to target this practice?

      If not, his ban is useless. People will just refill.

      • sp4rxx says:

        ….or being lazy, may not refill at all, thereby reducing their soda intake by 1/2….

        It can work both ways – why do people complain about it so much? It’s just soda. Geesh.

        • Cerne says:

          People complain because they have this crazy belief that individuals should be able to make their own choices.

  3. dpeters11 says:

    It’s stupid to make it seem like a 32 oz diet soda is healthier than a regular. Now, I do think they should offer a 16 oz size but it’s their right not to.

    • Youthier says:

      This. “Liter of cola? Do we sell liter of cola? Oh, liter of DIET cola. Sure, coming right up.”

  4. Costner says:

    What is to prevent the theater from selling two 16oz sodas in a drink carrier for the price of one larger version?

    Stupid, stupid idea.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      it would probably cost them more to sell two 16 oz the same price as 1 32 oz. Two cups, ice, whatever. it’s probably not a big difference but enough to cost them a lot once it adds up.

      • Costner says:

        It would cost more – because the second cup, lid, and straw would be 8-15 cents additional cost. The drink carrier might be another dime, and there would also be a bit more labor involved in filling two drinks rather than one.

        However, they could probably sell two 16oz drinks in a carrier for more than they could sell a 32oz drink – plus it gives the customer options, so instead of one large beverage of Coke, maybe they could have one 16oz Coke, and one 16oz Sprite etc.

        In the end, the theater would probably charge a premium for the package and it would result in most landfill waste due to more cups and carriers. So Bloomberg tries to solve one problem and merely creates another.

  5. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    Why are people unable to sit through a movie without having to cram crap food, candy, and sugar water into their pie holes? And then COMPLAIN about the cost? I really, really, don’t understand this. Why? What is the point?

    Jeezus, people!

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      …because with the excellence of the home theater systems that pretty much everyone in the country has now, the only possible reason for going to the movie theater is that you like the popcorn.

      Also, point out one thing where people don’t complain about the cost.

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:


      • MarkFL says:

        “point out one thing where people don’t complain about the cost.”

        Hummers (when the were still in production)
        Floppy disks
        Tap water
        Reading message boards populated by trolls
        Shipping from Amazon (based on some of the messages over in that Sharpie discussion)
        Popcorn (the kind you pack with, not the kind you pay $8 for at the movie theater…bringing us full circle)

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      because they’ve been conditioned to it by decades of singing soda cups on the screen…
      “let’s all go to the loOOOOoobbEEEEE….”

  6. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    They should charge 1¢ for the first ounce, 2¢ for the second ounce, 4¢ for the third ounce, 8¢ for the fourth ounce, etc. all the way for 32 ounces. If even one person falls for that scheme, the theater will make zillions.

  7. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    OK, some typos are just typos, and some add a bit of humor to my day. Thanks.

    and says, “The [Boar of Health] is

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      You left your quote and sentence hanging…I believe it should end:

      “fighting to the death with the [Cow of Discontent].”

  8. Pre-Existing Condition says:

    They just need to put a scoop of ice cream in each drink and it will be transferred into a healthy, and completely legal alternative. The presence of milk is why the 1,000 calorie coffee drinks are exempted from the rules.

  9. aloria says:

    They’ll get my 32oz of Diet Coke when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. It is my right as an American to be able to drink from containers the size of my head.

  10. incident-man stole my avatar says:

    Did anyone else notice the hypocrisy of Mayor Bloomberg showing up at the Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest? He’s wants to limit the size of soda yet shows up to support a contest that requires you to stuff yourself with 60+ hotdogs.

    • Kuri says:

      The ban is less about actually doing something and more about APPEARING to be actually doing something.

      • longfeltwant says:

        Agreed. It’s a symbolic restricting. Like banning abortion, which wouldn’t reduce the incidence of abortion, but would only cause it to go underground and terminate both the fetus and mother. Nevertheless, some people think it is important to have such a symbol.

        Me? I don’t think so. To me, big sodas isn’t a cause worth fighting.

        • Delicious Spam is delicious says:

          Soda Nazis

          (sorry, added the missing required nazi reference)

        • Cerne says:

          Wow what a crappy analogy.

          Lets leave out the weird idea that a “fetus” magically becomes a human being only after being born.

          Abortion laws actually significantly reduce abortions so you’re facts suck.

          Secondly this is a fight worth fighting because liberty is a concept that goes to the heart of our society.

  11. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    They need to install tubing to each seat so I can drink directly from the tap. No more cups. Think of the environment. I want drip feeds.

  12. HFC says:

    Why should businesses have to find a workaround? This proposal is stupid. As a consumer, I want the right to buy any and all unhealthy (but not deadly) food and/or drinks I want. If I want to drink a 60oz soda at a movie theatre, it’s my business, not yours. If I want to get a 32oz soda at Taco Bell, again, it’s none of your concern. Stop trying to make me healthier than I already am. I’m responsible for my own well being, not you. I’m not overweight, nor do I plan on it. However, if I do gain 50lbs+, too bad for me, it still doesn’t affect you.

    Fuck off.

  13. longfeltwant says:

    “no one should be told what they can do and what they can’t do.”

    As soon as I hear anyone say this, I immediately classify them as an uncritical ideological nincompoop.

    Of COURSE the law tells you what you can and can’t do. That is literally the entire point of having laws! The point is that *this law* is one you don’t agree with. If you aren’t mature enough to understand the subtlety of accepting some laws, and rejecting other laws, based on preference, then you don’t deserve to be heard.

    • Mr_Magoo says:

      “no one should be told what they can do and what they can’t do.”

      Should be

      “no one should be told what he may do and what he may not do TO HIMSELF.”

      Those last two words are the key.

    • Cerne says:

      No the point of laws is to prevent you suffering harms at the hand of others. This law does nothing of the sort.

      • Skyhawk says:

        That’s what they USED to be for.
        Now they are used in lieu of raising taxes, to make money. Despite spending 35% of every dollar produced in this country, they can’t satiate their appetite for more.

        And most new laws are aimed at criminalizing possibilities, not the actual infringement of anyone’s rights.

  14. menty666 says:

    Want to bet Solo’s working on a 31 oz cup for the NYC market?

  15. dolemite says:

    “Bloomberg believes this is a public health issue tantamount to the ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other places. ” Smoking serves no purpose and simply damages the body. You could drink 1,2,3 liters of soda a day and still be underweight, depending on how many calories you burn. Also, your body obtains calories from soda, which is burned for fuel. Unlike smoking, drinking soda is not a 100% guarantee of negative health effects. There are a plethora of other factors that weigh in on it, like activity levels, diet, pre-existing conditions, etc.

    • kathygnome says:

      The big difference is nobody pours soda into my mouth, but smokers affect everyone around them.

      • George4478 says:

        Are there exclusions to the smoking ban if I’m sitting somewhere alone and I want to smoke?

        • Cerne says:

          There used to be, but the anti-smoking crowd has turned it into a moral crusade when they banned smoking in public places and cars.

  16. bhr says:

    I will take Bloomberg seriously when they include fancy coffee drinks into the ban. All those frozen coffee sugary drinks at Starbucks and the like are excluded.

    • Cerne says:

      See bit than he’d be controlling the life of the people who elected him. Soda bans have a greater effect on the poor on as Bloomber sees them “people too stupid to look after themselves”

  17. dush says:

    A movie exhibitor lobbyist tells the Times … that no one “should be told what they can do and what they can’t do.”

    Great! I’ll be bringing my own cheaper food to the theater from now on. The movie exhibitors don’t think I should be told what I can and can’t do.

    • Cerne says:

      Yah that’s exactly the same thing. Down with public property rights!

      • Cerne says:

        Enter text…

      • Cerne says:

        Obviously that should be private property rights. In my defence my it’s 40 something degrees n my apartment.

      • dush says:

        Ohh right, they actually mean no one should be told what they can do and what they can’t do by the New York City govt. But the movie exhibitors can tell us what to do all they want. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s not hypocritical.

        • Cerne says:

          Here’s the thing. You don’t have to do business wit the theatre, but you can’t opt out of being governed.

  18. 4Real says:

    Movie Theaters needs to be sued for charging so much for Concessions.. $10 for a tub of popcorn and soda is ridiculous.!!!!! Ban theaters.

    • CrazyEyed says:

      Theaters make a very small percentage of profit on ticket sales. Concessions is where they have to make it up.

    • shufflemoomin says:

      Sued for charging high prices on something you can easily do without and are under no obligation to buy? People like you SUCK!

  19. Piddles says:

    I was thinking that the work-around is to sell the cups independent of the soda. The law prevents sales of filled cups that are larger then 16 oz in volume. If the cup is empty, and something like a drink ticket is included with the price of the empty cup, it skirts the law. All you’ve purchased is paper. The movie theater buys back the ticket with soda. Maybe just sell the ticket to be redeemed? It’s like how the Japanese have a work-around for pachinko gambling with token exchange and buyback.

    I hope this stupid ban doesn’t get passed. If someone wants to drink a liter of soda during a movie, they should be able to.

    • rlmiller007 says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. Sell the cups and give away the soda or Buy our extra large popcorn and get the 64oz soda free.

    • Firethorn6 says:

      My solution:
      16 Oz drink: $5
      Fill up your own (clean)container(up to 64 oz): $6
      Movie themed 64+oz reusable cup: $4

      /Using what I remember of movie theater pricing

  20. Nidoking says:

    “We’ve yet to see a variety of soda pop that adds calories, sugar and caffeine to the system of someone sitting in the immediate vicinity of the person consuming said beverage.”

    You must not read many comments on Consumerist. There are some readers who have complained of clogged arteries after merely reading about certain food items. Run an article about a 1,240 oz. soda, and I guarantee you’ll get a few testimonials.

    • scoosdad says:

      I have an implanted blood glucose monitor and I can actually see my blood sugar rise when I read stories like that.

      /may not be true

  21. rlmiller007 says:

    I love at the end it has “”The [Boar of Health]”…BOAR..ha ha. They already have a pig working in the mayor’s office!

  22. Jawaka says:

    So did the employees wear these shirts on their own or were they forced to wear shirts with a political message on it?

  23. blueman says:

    The mayor has a valid point: I’m very concerned about second-hand high-fructose corn syrup.

  24. CrazyEyed says:

    As a former theater employee let me first say that the profit theaters make comes almost entirely from concessions. Hense the inflated prices. Whether you think its outrageous or not, theaters see very small percentages of ticket sales and would cease to exist if a law like this was actually passed. Drinks and popcorn were intentionally supersided to reduce the number of added trips you’d have to make for refills. At the prices now, would you really want to pay $6 for a dinky soft drink you’d finish before the movie started?

  25. nopirates says:

    people, people, people…

    this ban will NEVER HAPPEN

    settle down, please

    • Cerne says:

      Never happens as in passed the board of health meeting and is waiting to be implemented as we speak?

  26. Cacao says:

    If you’re thirsty, drink something. But 16 or 32 ounces? Crazy.

    True story. Sister and I were in a theater about to watch “Avatar”. Guy in front of us arrives at his seat with a small pitcher of beer (yes, they sell beer in theaters here in PDX). The sis whispers to me, ‘Big mistake. He’s gonna have to get up halfway through’. Later on when he gets up, we both giggled.

  27. MarkFL says:

    I actually have a collection of large cups from stadiums, arenas, and other venues of that sort. Couldn’t places just sell the empty cup, and offer xx ounces of free soda with purchase?

    What bugs me most about this is that if I want to buy a 32-ounce drink at a Yankees game (no, I don’t live within 1000 miles of the Bronx, but still), I will be told I can’t — and then I can just get a big ol’ beer instead. Perhaps the lack of large soft drinks will encourage more drinking? Because if there’s anything we need more of, it’s drunken Yankee fans. (Actually, I’d rather have used Jets fans as an example, having seen them in Miami, but play in NJ where the ban wouldn’t apply.)

  28. MarkFL says:

    Come to think of it, the ban is on “sugary drinks.” This should exempt most soft drinks based on the fact that they are almost always made with corn syrup — which the FDA says is not sugar. Maybe the corn industry should rethink its position on that whole “corn sugar” thing.

  29. shufflemoomin says:

    “…obesity “should be handled through education,”” God-damn laughable. If someone needs to be told that too many calories and sugar is bad for you, they shouldn’t be allowed out unsupervised.

  30. BoycottsnotBombs says:

    Mr. Bloomberg should realize you can’t raise the level of usable intelligence in the population at large. Being obese is anti patriotic, but that won’t stop those who ignore portion control. Maybe he could have them re-label everything unhealthy. Or sell the long term care insurance that is going to be needed after a stroke or heart attack.

  31. jewpiterjones says:

    they’ll still sell 6 cents of popcorn for $7.50 and 20 cent bottles of water for $4.75. and nothing is stopping them from selling six packs of soda to diabetic wannabes.

  32. Uncle Don says:

    So many suggestions about how to get “around” this insanity. Stop all that NY… your representative and tell him/her to put an end to this. Write the paper…..don’t spend energy figuring out how to get around it. Put a stop to it…..!

    • penuspenuspenus says:

      OK… I …. will tell… people…. I know in NY… to do so…
      Why… are we using so… many… ellipses?

    • MarkFL says:

      1. I don’t live in NY.
      2. The large number of ways to get around the law suggest that it’s pointless and unenforceable.

  33. mcgyver210 says:

    Theaters better be careful or Obama will tax (My bad Penalize under the threat of violence from his Gestapo enforcers) everyone that doesn’t only buy 16 oz drinks in cups with his picture on them.

  34. soj4life says:

    Movie theaters make money from admissions, it is their largest revenue stream. Last year AMC had ticket sales of 1.7 billion and at the end of the end ended up with $800 million. Concessions is another revenue stream, but they market it as their most needed one. Their ad campaign is just part of that marketing.