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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Does knowledge about the nutritional content of movie snacks impact your snacking?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a new study yesterday on the calorie and fat content of popular movie snacks. The upshot:

It’s hard to picture someone mindlessly ingesting three McDonald’s Quarter Pounders with 12 pats of butter while watching a movie. But according to new laboratory analyses commissioned by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, that food is nutritionally comparable to what you’d find in a medium popcorn and soda combo at Regal, the country’s biggest movie theater chain: 1,610 calories and three days’ worth — 60 grams — of saturated fat. (Nutrition aside, that combo costs $12 for raw ingredients that must cost Regal pennies.)

It’s too bad that CSPI put that last bit in parenthesis, because that’s the real story: these snacks are chemically designed to be irresistible (to some) and sold at huge markups because that’s how the multiplexes stay in business. (Most of the ticket revenue goes back to the studios.) It answers the question asked later on by CSPI senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley:

“Sitting through a two-hour movie isn’t exactly like climbing Mt. Everest,” Hurley said. “Why do theaters think they need to feed us like it is?”

The Los Angeles Timescoverage of the study noted:

The group’s second look at movie theater concessions — the last was 15 years ago — found little had changed in a decade and a half, despite theaters’ attempts to reformulate.

But maybe that doesn’t matter, because:

“According to the most recent statistics from the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the average American attends six movies a year,” Regal said. “Theater popcorn and movie snacks are viewed as a treat and not intended to be part of a regular diet.”

And maybe we mostly don’t care:

It’s unclear if consumers would storm the concession stand for low-cal popcorn anyway. After the 1994 popcorn report, “many cinema operators responded by offering their patrons additional choices, such as air-popped popcorn,” the National Assn. of Theatre Owners said in a statement.

“After very little time, movie patrons in droves made their voices heard — they wanted the traditional popcorn back.”

(A more detailed breakdown of the nutritional horrors is available at ABC News. It’s entitled, “Is It Curtains for Movie Snacks?” which seems unlikely.)

I suspect that readers of FlickFilosopher.com are far more frequent moviegoers than average, which perhaps does make it more of a concern: Does knowledge about the nutritional content of movie snacks impact your snacking?

I’m at a multiplex all the time, sometimes several times per week (screening rooms don’t offer snacks, and most of them expressly forbid any kind of food or drink), and once in a while I do succumb to the delicious smells wafting from the concession stand. And I invariably feel like hell after even a small bag of movie popcorn — it’s been a long while now since I’ve even been tempted.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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