Theaters say Bloomy’s soda ban will hurt bottom line


| tcullen@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/photo by Terence Cullen
THE COURIER/photo by Terence Cullen

Today the Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on sugary beverages over 16 ounces.

Many businesses — and soda drinkers alike — are hoping that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban will fizzle out.

Russell Levinson, the general manager of MovieWorld in Douglaston Plaza, said the rules under the ban were unfair and would severely hurt his theatre’s business.

“It’s hitting us disproportionately — movie theatres and fast food chains will be the most affected,” he said.

The theatre, along with other businesses, has signed a citywide petition against the suggested ban. At press time, 183,463 individuals and 2,002 organizations have signed it.

Levinson then posted the petition on the theater’s website. Another way to catch the interest of moviegoers was the theatre’s marque. For several weeks, the line “say no to the soda ban” sat on the bottom marque — under the list of this summer’s top blockbusters.

Levinson said the efforts might not amount to much, but was hopeful that there might be some final decision or compromise that would washout the ban.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence that we’re going to be successful, but maybe there will be some last minute miracle,” he said.

Bloomberg said at a Tuesday, August 28 press conference that his administration was not changing any rules in the soda ban.

“If you ask the question, ‘Should we ban full-sugar drinks?’ you get the answer, ‘No,’” Bloomberg told The Wall Street Journal. “Unfortunately for your story line, that’s not what we’re doing. All we’re doing is saying that restaurants and movie theaters can’t use greater than 16-ounce cups. But if you want to buy five of them and drink it, you can go ahead and do it. So, nobody’s hurting anything.”

The smallest size soda at MovieWorld, which is independently owned, is the “kids” size that is 12 ounces, Levinson said. The theatre’s size small is 22 ounces, Levinson said, and would be way over the limit set under the ban.

“Your smallest kids size would just make it,” he said. “Everything will have to be changed and [soda companies] will have to come up with new alternatives as well.”

MovieWorld, like many other theaters, does not profit from ticket sales; rather, concession sales — popcorn, candy, nachos and soda — account for the theatre’s main revenue.

“You only make profit in concession,” he said. “Your popcorn and your soda are your two biggest sales and your two biggest profit margins. We will have to be very creative if this goes through.”

While fighting obesity is a good idea to Levinson, the theatre manager said banning soda from movies and restaurants was not the best way to go about it.

“I just think it’s the wrong way to go about fighting obesity,” he said. “I don’t think it attacks the problem where it should be. Soda is maybe 10 percent of somebody’s diet at most.”