Movie Theatre Association Doubts Government Claim That People Sit When Watching Films

Movie Theater Audience - H 2012
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Movie Theater Audience - H 2012

Corporate interests throw up all sorts of objections when faced with burdensome regulations, but what the National Association of Theatre Owners told the Food and Drug Administration a few days ago deserves some applause for sheer bravado.

The FDA is considering a final rule whereby calorie counts must be provided for menu items like popcorn and soft drinks. The agency has upset movie exhibitors by including them alongside big restaurant chains.

"In its explanation for including theaters, which had been exempted from labeling under the Proposed Rule, the FDA claimed that 'movies attract sedentary people,'” writes NATO in a position statement filed on Aug. 2.

"The FDA provided no source or study conducted of moviegoers and their habits to support this statement," NATO continues. "NATO disagrees with this claim and does not consider it a legitimate justification for requiring theaters to comply with the Final Rule."

Do movie theater owners really doubt that people are seated and inactive while watching films? Seems so.

Elsewhere in the statement (see below), NATO urges flexibility because "two large bags of popcorn filled using the same scoop could contain different calorie counts, because it is impossible to ensure that there is exactly the same number of kernels in each bag and that each kernel is coated in precisely the same amount of oil."

Update: It gets worse. Might NATO have been putting words in the FDA's mouth too? The statement about "sedentary people" comes from the final rule published where the FDA was discussing reasons offered by other commentators to include movie theaters. An FDA spokesperson confirms to THR this was not a comment by the FDA, which would also seemingly foreclose any cynical interpretation that the government was characterizing the hundreds of millions of Americans who attend movies as lazy.