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New York Movie Theater Owners Threaten Suit, Higher Prices Over Soda Ban

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MOVIE THEATER SODA BAN
New York City theater owners, who depend on pricey, large sugary drinks for high sales, plan to fight the law created by Mayor Bloomberg. | AP

New York's movie theater owners are gearing up for war over the city's ban of large sugary drinks.

Theater owners will likely sue the city rather than stop selling sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces, Robert Sunshine, executive director of the National Association of Theatre Owners' New York chapter, told Deadline New York late last week.

Sunshine hinted that if theaters were forced to comply with the ban, prices would have to go up elsewhere. If the ban were passed, "somewhere along the line profit will have to be made up," Sunshine told Deadline. “It’s going to have a tremendous impact.”

His comments leave us wondering: Is Gotham about to face $20+ movie tickets? The average ticket price nationwide is around $8, but in New York it's far higher. A 3D film in Manhattan can cost $19.50.

For theaters, the potential sting from the soda ban is worsened by the fact that the box office is trudging through its biggest slump in over a decade. Theaters make 85 cents in profit off each dollar spent at the concession stand with concessions accounting for nearly 40 percent of their profits.

In June, the National Association of Theater Owners argued against the soda ban, claiming that the average person only goes to the movies four times a year and purchases concessions there even less frequently.

Local restaurants are also loudly protesting the city's ban, which doesn't apply to grocery stores. "If a customer comes here and asks for a bottle of soda and I can't sell it here, they are just going to go next door," Lal Barak, a Manhattan restaurant owner told DNAinfo. "This is going to hurt my business." Presumably, movie goers could employ the same tactic in order to get larger (and cheaper) drinks.

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