by Esther Baruh, NATO Government Relations Manager, and Todd Halstead, NATO Consultant

For more than 20 years, policy makers at every level of government have pursued political solutions to reduce the nation's skyrocketing obesity rates. On their face, the objectives of these lawmakers are pragmatic. Obesity-related conditions, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer are some of the leading causes of preventable death. Obesity also has an immense economic impact. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the annual medical cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008. Individual medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than for those of healthy weight. 

In an attempt to reduce the burdens of these staggering statistics, policy makers have turned their attention to regulating American food consumption. Food and beverage manufacturers and retailers are in the throes of digesting the federal government's latest attempt at changing habits through legislation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued an expansive final rule on calorie labeling. The rule requires an establishment serving "restaurant-type food" with 20 or more locations to disclose calories on menus and menu boards, with additional nutritional information to be made available upon request. The FDA was charged with this rule making with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, in which Congress mandated calorie labeling for restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations.

Unfortunately, to paraphrase former senator and presidential candidate George McGovern, politicians who haven't run a business can be bad at the business of regulating. The late McGovern learned the hard way about the impact regulations can have on businesses. After leaving the Senate, he acquired the leasehold on Connecticut's Stratford Inn, which led him to wish he had had that firsthand business experience while in office. "In short, ‘one-size-fits-all' rules for business ignore the reality of the marketplace," McGovern wrote after the inn went into bankruptcy. 

The FDA's new rule is wide ranging, covering businesses and food items that were exempted in the proposed rule issued more than three years ago. The blanket rule also overlooks the complicated nature of business operations. Particularly for movie theaters, which are increasingly experimenting with dine-in concepts and luxury cinema service, the rule presents many challenges and requires near-Talmudic interpretation to be successfully implemented. And it's not clear whether implementing this new rule will truly yield a change in public consumption.

While advocates claim menu labeling leads patrons to make informed and healthier choices, the FDA has failed to provide evidence that the regulation's costs-expected at more than $1.2 billion with 498,508 hours of paperwork-are justified by corresponding benefits to consumers. Despite many states and cities having implemented their own labeling mandates, studies do not uniformly find that consumers faced with calorie information on menus and menu boards change their eating habits. A 2013 National Institutes of Health study found no change in calories purchased after menu labeling was introduced in Philadelphia in 2010. Less than half of customers reported noticing the calorie counts. The study also discovered that the number of visits to fast-food restaurants did not change.

Advocates claim such data are inconclusive because menu labeling is a relatively new phenomenon. They are right. To gauge the ability of food labeling to rein in America's waistline, one needs only to look at the effect of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA). The crowning health policy achievement of the 1990s, the NLEA requires most packaged foods to bear a Nutrition Facts panel containing basic per-serving nutritional information. Despite an FDA study that indicates 66 percent of consumers reported using the food label to determine food nutrients, data suggest the NLEA's implementation in 1994 has largely been unsuccessful at impacting the dramatic rise in adult and youth obesity rates. The CDC cites estimates that obesity in the United States has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years. As of today, more than one-third of children, adolescents, and adults are overweight or obese. 

Surprisingly, there has been little empirical research evaluating the impact of the NLEA on obesity in the United States. The only comprehensive study, conducted by researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2006, found that the NLEA labels had a slight beneficial impact on only one demographic group: non-Hispanic white females. The study did estimate that the total monetary benefit of the decrease in body weight for that group was up to $166 billion over a 20-year period, far in excess of the costs of the NLEA.

The murky question of calorie labeling's benefits has not gone unnoticed in Congress. Republican representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) stated that the agency had "acted recklessly" by mandating regulations without considering the impact they will have on employees, business owners, and local economies. Movie theaters are among the industries that will experience the "extreme cost" of adhering to the regulations, she warned. McMorris Rodgers is the sponsor of the Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act, a bill that would predicate inclusion in the rule on 50 percent of a retail food establishment's total revenue coming from the sale of food. Her bill will not see action before the end of the 113th Congress; neither will companion legislation in the Senate sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), despite the bipartisan support enjoyed by both bills. While members of Congress are sometimes unwilling to push for legislative fixes while an agency is still engaged in the rule-making process, the publication of the final rule has sparked renewed efforts in this regard. A coalition of food retailers will likely push for the bill's reintroduction and passage in the 114th Congress. NATO is among the associations looking at possible legislative fixes. 

NATO's work on the rule won't be limited to seeking congressional solutions. We aim to serve as a primary resource for impacted members on a range of needs, including partnering with other associations on labeling materials and communicating member concerns with the FDA. If you operate 20 or more locations, regardless of whether your company has already implemented menu labeling, or you are just beginning the process of incorporating calorie counts in your facilities, NATO's team is here to help you. For more information, please contact our Washington, DC, office at 202-962-0054. 

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The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies crossed the $600 million overseas mark after adding $54.2 million from 61 markets. The Chinese release is behind the big box office bump, contributing $49.5 million from a weekend debut across an estimated 8,802 screens. Other top overseas markets include Germany ($77.9M) and the United Kingdom ($63.6M). The final film in the Hobbit trilogy has grossed a total of $616.9 million overseas and $866.4 million worldwide.

Taken 3 netted $26.3 million from 57 markets, including an $8.2 million debut in France. The overseas cume is now up to $151.4 million. The action flick has grossed $227.2 million globally.

The headlines will lead with American Sniper crossing $200 million domestically this weekend, but the film isn't finished earning overseas. American Sniper opened in 17 markets over the weekend, bringing the total number of markets in release to 26. The film added $17.6 million from the expansion, including a $4.3 million bow in Australia. American Sniper has now grossed $248.2 million worldwide.

Big Hero 6 grossed $5.1 million ($6.4 million including previews) in its South Korean debut, the second biggest opening for a Disney Animation/Pixar movie in the market behind Frozen. The film also opened well in Germany, where it took $3.9 million ($4.4 million including previews). Japan continues to lead the overseas charge with a $58.7 million cume. Big Hero 6 finished the weekend with a $14.9 million haul from 33 territories and has grossed a total of $238.6 million outside of North America. The film has collected $456 million worldwide.

Penguins of Madagascar made $9 million from 31 markets, bringing its overseas cume up to $240 million. The animated film has grossed $321.2 million worldwide.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb hit a major global milestone this weekend, reaching a $300 million global cume following an $8.7 million weekend in 44 markets. The family film has grossed a total of $192.5 million outside of North America.

The Theory of Everything brought in $7 million from 25 territories to reach an overseas total of $41.7 million. France opened with $580k at 207 dates for a 7th place finish this weekend. The biopic has grossed a total of $70.6 million worldwide.

Seventh Son expanded to five more territories this weekend, grossing a total of $6.8 million. The film has grossed a total of $77 million from 46 territories, including a $25 million haul from China.

Mortdecai enjoyed a $9.7 million day-and-date debut from 33 territories and North America. German led all overseas territories by contributing $1.2 million of the $5.2 million cume.

Exodus: Gods and Kings collected $5.2 million from 31 markets. The film has now grossed $189.5 million outside of North America, with Japan set to release next weekend. Exodus has grossed $253 million worldwide.

Into The Woods claimed the top spot in Spain with an $800k debut this weekend. The film continues to perform in the UK, where it currently leads all overseas territories with a $10.9 million cume. The musical grossed a total of $5.1 million in its fifth weekend overseas, taking its cume outside of North America up to $34 million. Into the Woods has grossed $155.4 million worldwide.

Birdman grossed $4.3 million from 26 markets, taking its overseas total up to $19.1m. The art-house hit has grossed $49.9 million globally.

Unbroken brought in $3.8 million from 36 territories, reaching a $28.1 million overseas cume. The drama has grossed $140.4 million worldwide.


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Sunday Update: Warner's American Sniper continued to absolutely dominate the box office this weekend with an estimated first place take of $64.37 million. In the process, the Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper surpassed the $200 million domestic mark this weekend. American Sniper was down just 28 percent from last weekend. That represented an extremely impressive second weekend hold, especially for a film with grosses of this magnitude.

Without adjusting for ticket price inflation, American Sniper registered the eighth largest second weekend gross of all-time. American Sniper also registered the third largest January weekend gross of all-time (behind only the film's performance last weekend and the third weekend performance of Avatar back in 2010). With $200.14 million after just ten days of wide release, American Sniper is currently running a massive 64 percent ahead of the $122.32 million ten-day start of 2013's Gravity (which fell 23 percent in its second weekend to gross $43.19 million). Given this weekend's performance, American Sniper is obviously in great position to zoom past the $300 million milestone going forward.

American Sniper took in an estimated $5.8 million from IMAX locations this weekend. That brings the film's IMAX total to $18.8 million, which represents 9.4 percent of the film's overall gross thus far.

The Boy Next Door debuted in second place this weekend with an estimated $15.0 million. Universal's low-budget thriller starring Jennifer Lopez performed on the higher end of pre-release expectations. The film was off to a good start, especially with its low production budget in mind. The Boy Next Door opened 23 percent ahead of the $12.20 million start of 2010's The Back-Up Plan (which also starred Lopez) and debuted just 12 percent below the $17.12 million debut of 2013's The Call. The Boy Next Door received a B- rating on CinemaScore, which is respectable for a thriller. The audience breakdown for The Boy Next Door skewed heavily towards female moviegoers (71 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 years and older (60 percent).

The news was far worse for the weekend's other two wide releases as Disney's Strange Magic and Lionsgate's Mortdecai were both dead on arrival. As was the case with Universal's Blackhat last weekend, Strange Magic and Mortdecai both had a problem finding an audience due in large part to the breakout performance of American Sniper (with poor critical reviews for both films also not helping).

Strange Magic debuted in seventh place with an estimated $5.53 million. The computer animated film written and executive produced by George Lucas debuted below its already modest pre-release expectations. Strange Magic performed similarly to Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, which opened with $3.75 million back in May of last year. Strange Magic received a B- rating on CinemaScore, which is lackluster for an animated film. The audience breakdown for Strange Magic skewed towards female moviegoers (56 percent) and towards moviegoers 25 years and younger (53 percent). Family audiences represented 71 percent of the film's overall audience.

Mortdecai landed in ninth with an estimated $4.13 million. Unlike Strange Magic, the comedy starring Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow had been expected to have somewhat of a presence at the box office this weekend, due in part to strong levels of online buzz. But much like last year's Transcendence (which debuted with just $10.89 million), Mortdecai failed to live up to expectations. Audiences have clearly lost interest in Depp, especially when it comes to his non-event film roles. Mortdecai received a soft C+ rating on CinemaScore.

Paddington took third place this weekend with an estimated $12.39 million. The family film from The Weinstein Company was down 35 percent from last weekend's three-day start. That represented a nice second weekend hold, especially with the added direct completion from Strange Magic. Paddington surpassed the $40 million mark this weekend and has grossed a very solid $40.06 million. That places the film on par with the $40.06 million ten-day start of The Nut Job last January (which fell 38 percent in its second weekend to gross $12.10 million).

Sony's The Wedding Ringer followed in fourth with an estimated $11.6 million. The modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad was down a respectable 44 percent from last weekend. The Wedding Ringer has grossed $39.68 million in ten days, which is on the lower end of expectations. The film is now running 4 percent ahead of the $38.28 million ten-day take of last year's About Last Night (which declined a far sharper 71 percent in its second weekend to gross $7.53 million).

Fox's Taken 3 rounded out the weekend's top five with an estimated $7.6 million. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise was down a significant 48 percent from last weekend. Taken 3 has grossed $76.05 million in 17 days, which places the film 28 percent behind the $105.83 million 17-day gross of 2012's Taken 2.

Best Picture nominees The Imitation Game and Selma took in sixth and eighth place with respective estimated takes of $7.14 million and $5.50 million. With aid from expanding into an additional 414 locations, The Weinstein Company's The Imitation Game was up a strong 5 percent over last weekend. Paramount's Selma fell 37 percent from last weekend, due in part to last weekend's performance having been inflated by the Martin Luther King holiday. Respective total grosses stand at $60.64 million for The Imitation Game and at $39.22 million for Selma.

- Daniel Garris

Saturday Update: Warner Bros. reports American Sniper eased just 40 percent from last Friday to $18.33 million yesterday, easily holding onto first place. To date, the blockbuster war drama has earned $154.1 million domestically. BoxOffice projects a $65 million haul this weekend. Should that hold, it would be one of the top eight sophomore weekends in history (second only to Avatar and the original Spider-Man among non-sequels), and the biggest ever second weekend gross for a non-franchise movie -- topping The Passion of the Christ's $53.2 million second frame. Sniper is currently running 68 percent ahead of where Gravity stood at the same point, and is currently in line with the eight-day $153 million take posted by Passion in 2004. The Bradley Cooper-led, Clint Eastwood-helmed Oscar nominee should approach, if not cross, the $200 million domestic mark by the end of the weekend.

The Boy Next Door grabbed a solid $5.7 million in its first day on Friday. The Jennifer Lopez thriller is on target to bring in $15.7 million over its debut weekend, a positive start for the micro-budget flick.

The Wedding Ringer added $3.3 million yesterday, down 53 percent from its opening day last weekend. With $31.4 million in the bank through 8 days of release, BoxOffice projects a $10.9 million sophomore frame.

Paddington eased 44 percent from opening day last week to $2.6 million on Friday, giving the well-received animated adaptation a $30.3 million domestic total through eight days of release. BoxOffice projects $12.4 million for the weekend.

The Imitation Game tacked on another $1.92 million yesterday as it added another 414 theaters this weekend. The multiple Oscar nominee has tallied $55.4 million thus far. BoxOffice projects a $7.5 million weekend.

Unfortunately, the other two openers this weekend struggled to find an audience in a crowded marketplace. Mortdecai bowed to $1.47 million on Friday, setting it on a course for a $4.5 million weekend. Meanwhile, Strange Magic pulled $1.3 million on its first day and is expected to tally around $5 million for its opening weekend.

Check BoxOffice on Sunday for official weekend estimates from the studios.

- Shawn Robbins

Update #2: Sources tell BoxOffice that American Sniper is headed for more than $55 million during its sophomore frame, which means it will end up with close to $200 million by Sunday. 

The Boy Next Door is clearly connecting with key female demos, and it's on pace for north of $16 million.

Both Mortdecai and Strange Magic will open to around $6 million-$7 million. Mortdecai's debut marks another disappointment for star Johnny Depp.

Check back tomorrow for updated projections and official studio numbers.

Update #1: Sources report that The Boy Next Door landed an estimated $500,000 from Thursday's opening shows, a good start for the low-budget thriller starring Jennifer Lopez. Comparisons are somewhat few and far between, although last night's early take was in line with Nightcrawler's $515,000 Thursday haul back in October.

Also opening this weekend are Mortdecai and Strange Magic. Ultimately, though, the big story of the weekend will be how well American Sniper holds on in its sophomore frame of wide release.

More as it comes.

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By Daniel Garris

Warner's American Sniper took in an impressive $7.66 million on Thursday to lead the daily box office with ease for a seventh consecutive day. The Clint Eastwood directed Best Picture nominee starring Bradley Cooper was up 1 percent over Wednesday. American Sniper rocketed past expectations this week with a massive $132.35 million in its first week of wide release. That brings the film's total gross to $135.77 million. American Sniper is currently running 67 percent ahead of the $79.13 million seven-day take of 2013's Gravity. Given its strong holding power throughout the week, American Sniper is in great shape to experience a very strong hold over the weekend.

The Wedding Ringer held steady in second with $1.18 million. Sony's modestly budgeted comedy starring Kevin Hart and Josh Gad was up 2 percent over Wednesday's performance. The Wedding Ringer took second place for the week with a seven-day start of $28.08 million. That was on the lower end of pre-release expectations and places the film 9 percent behind the $30.75 million seven-day take of last year's About Last Night. The Wedding Ringer has been displaying stronger holding power than About Last Night so far and is very likely to continue to do so going forward.

Fox's Taken 3 grossed $0.757 million to remain in third place. The third installment of the Liam Neeson led franchise up 5 percent from Wednesday, but still down a sharp 57 percent from last Thursday. Taken 3 placed in fourth for the week with $19.66 million and has grossed $68.45 million in two weeks of release. That places the film a reasonable 26 percent behind the $92.57 million two-week take of 2012's Taken 2.

Selma continued to claim fourth place with $0.708 million. The Best Picture nominee from Paramount was up an impressive 17 percent over Wednesday and down 37 percent from last Thursday. Selma held up very nicely this week with a fifth place take of $16.06 million. That represented a 4 percent increase over the previous week and brings the film's current domestic total to a promising $33.72 million.

Fellow Best Picture nominee The Imitation Game followed in fifth place with $0.626 million. Like Selma, The Imitation Game was also up 17 percent over Wednesday. The Weinstein Company release was down a slim 25 percent from last Thursday. The Imitation Game placed in sixth for the week with $9.89 million. The film was down just 5 percent from the previous frame and has grossed $53.51 million to date.

Fellow Weinstein Company release Paddington placed in sixth with $0.603 million. The well received family film increased 6 percent over Wednesday. For the week, Paddington finished just behind The Wedding Ringer to take third place for the frame with a seven-day start of $27.67 million. Paddington is performing in line with expectations and is running 1 percent behind the $27.96 million seven-day take of last year's The Nut Job.

Meanwhile, Universal's Blackhat rounded out its first week of release with a tenth place take of $0.282 million. The Michael Mann directed film starring Chris Hemsworth grossed a very disappointing $5.43 million in its first seven days. Blackhat landed all the way down in eleventh for the week and will obviously fade away from theatres quickly.

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hungergamemockingjay.pngBy Shawn Robbins

What became seemingly inevitable over the holidays finally came to fruition on Wednesday: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, with an otherwise anti-climactic daily gross of $106,407, overtook Guardians of the Galaxy as North America's top domestic grosser of 2014. The former's total now stands at $333.18 million -- topping the latter's most recently reported tally of $333.17 million.

Why, nearly one month into the new year, is this newsworthy?

For starters, it's the first time any franchise has ever "won" back-to-back box office years. For all the Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Twilight, and superhero movies out there, Katniss Everdeen is the first iconic character to champion two straight calendar victories. (Of course, scheduling, competition, and a bevy of other factors weigh in here... but that's beside the point.)

By extension, it's also the first time any studio has won back-to-back years in the modern box office tracking era (an impressive feat for the recently-minted seventh major studio, Lionsgate).

BoxOffice previously analyzed the full perspective of what Mockingjay - Part 1's top annual ranking could mean before the film's release last November. The penultimate franchise chapter may have fallen somewhat short of many industry expectations, but that's a minor footnote against an otherwise impressive accomplishment. Nothing is taken away from Guardians' spectacular run either.

For what it's worth, this is the second straight year the Hunger Games franchise upset Disney and Marvel for the top domestic spot (Catching Fire led the way past Iron Man 3 in 2013). Will the story repeat again for 2015 as Lionsgate closes out its biggest success to-date come November? Possibly, but we're fairly confident Disney's Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Age of Ultron will have something to say about that.

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