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A soda fountain in Century Hilltop 16 movie theater sits near a large "No on N" banner.

Cinemark joins American Beverage Association in funding opposition to Measure N

on October 10, 2012

The Texas-based movie theater chain Cinemark USA Inc has joined the campaign against Richmond’s Measure N, adding nearly $107,000 in non-monetary contributions against the measure between July 15-Sept. 30, according to campaign statements filed with the City Clerk.

During that period, Cinemark was one of two contributors to the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes, which has spent $2.2 million this year in opposition to Measure N.

CCABT’s other — and largest —  contributor is the American Beverage Association, a lobby group for the beverage industry based in Washington D.C. ABA and its strategic advocacy fund has given more than $1.4 million to the CCABT this year.

Cinemark, which is based in Plano, Texas and owns Century Theatres, paid for anti-Measure N ads to play before movies, as well as other No on N display materials.

Richmond’s Century Hilltop 16 movie theater started playing a No on Measure N trailer about two weeks ago, General Manager Ben Suller said.

The trailer begins with a man and his two teenage sons walking away from the concessions counter in the theater with drinks and popcorn in hand. The teenage boys leave, and the father looks at the camera and says “They’re good kids.” Measure N, he says, “hits people who can least afford to pay.”

The boys and father are then shown in the theater, watching the screen as text and a narrator’s voice list off reasons to oppose the beverage tax.

Customers at the theater’s concessions will see anti-Measure N literature on the counters and even on the workers behind them. Suller said his theater has received “No on N” T-shirts to distribute to his employees.

Suller said he’s seen a mixture of customers’ reactions — from people throwing the papers away out of indifference to others talking about the merits of the measure while in the theater. He said he once overheard a husband and wife arguing — one was in favor, one against.

Milt Moritz, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners California/Nevada, said Measure N seems simple on the surface, but, “It’s a very, very cumbersome procedure” to implement a system to tax sugar-sweetened beverages.

Moritz said that because the average person goes to a theater so infrequently, the business shouldn’t be held accountable for health issues related to that person’s beverage consumption.

“Anyone that goes to a movie theater six times a year is considered a heavy moviegoer,” Moritz said. “We’re not the source of his obesity.”


Campaign contributions show the significant influence of Washington D.C. based lobby group, American Beverage Association and Cinemark from Plano, Texas in Richmond’s Measure N campaign. (Illustration: Tawanda Kanhema)

Most of the $25,293 spent in support of Measure N came from an individual contributor from Saratoga, Calif., Tor Braham.

Braham’s contribution breathed life into the Yes on N campaign, whose only other major contributors with donations of more than $1,000 were a New York-based nutrition school called the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which gave $2,000, and another individual contributor, Richard Hart of San Carlos, Calif.

The CCABT’s expenditure records also show that at least $300,000 spent so far to oppose Measure N was spent outside of Richmond, mostly on legal fees and production costs for videos and other media against the measure. The coalition spent at least $30,000 on campaign teams engaged to do canvassing work like interacting with voters and planting yard signs, more than what Yes on N has spent in total.

The issue of whether PACs and Independent Committees in Richmond should declare that special interest groups and lobby groups from outside Richmond were funding their campaigns on mailers and billboards has divided the City Council, which last month amended an ordinance to require committees to disclose where their major funding comes from.

At the council meeting last week, Councilmember Jovanka Beckles said it is important for residents to know where the money behind campaigns is coming from.

“We need to protect the residents of Richmond from deceptive campaign mailers,” Beckles said. “Poor families are getting poorer every day, everybody is having to do with less, the only people that are not having to do with less are the billion-dollar corporations. We need to help those working with less to be on a level playing field.”

Coucilmember Jeff Ritterman, the architect of Measure N, said the massive influx of outside funding showed how far the beverage industry was prepared to go to defeat the measure.

“The election in Richmond is pitting Big Soda and Big Oil and those who do their bidding against a grassroots people’s movement that wants to reverse childhood obesity and hold Chevron accountable for the negligence leading up to the fire,” Ritterman said. “The new medical science is frightening. Sodas cause obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.  The good news is we can all be healthier just by replacing soda with tap water.”


  1. Juan Reardon on October 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    As soon as these corporate guys bring in their armed forces the picture of their tidal wave side will be complete.

    However, the People of Richmond are strong…and They have ears, eyes and an brain to think.

    The lies of Joseph Goebbels did not allways win…and in the end he lost.

    • Don Gosney on October 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Mr. Reardon–Are you now suggesting that the people and businesses that oppose Measure N will now come into town armed? Are you suggesting some sort of violence might follow? Do you think this is an Occupy movement where all meetings end in violence? What kind of peacenik are you that you’re promoting violence?

      Are you now suggesting that those that oppose your measure will force voters–at gun point–to vote their way? Do you think you’re back home in South America? We don’t do things like that here and we really don’t appreciate those that advocate violence as a solution to a problem.

      Statements like yours are often a prelude to violence. People go on the offensive and justify their actions by saying they were just trying to prevent actions by the other side. Sounds kind of like Bush-II in Iraq. Wow–that’s the first time I’ve ever seen you taking cues from the Bush/Cheney/Rove playbook?

      • Jeff Ritterman on October 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

        Does anyone seriously believe that Big Soda (Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper) cares about the health of Richmond’s kids. Does anyone seriously doubt that Chevron would like to extricate itself from its responsibility for the fire as cheaply as possible.

        We can protect the health of our children and hold Chevron responsible for its negligence if we Vote Yes on N. Less Soda More Sports = Healthy Kids and Vote for Mailyn Langlois, Eduardo Martinez and Tom Butt for City Council..

        • Save El Sobrante on October 10, 2012 at 10:11 pm

          Does anyone seriously believe you care about the health of Richmond’s kids?? If so you would know that taxes can’t make anyone healthy…you would be out there fighting Monsanto and frankenfood via support of Prop. 37 and advising people to speak out against the massive spray operations AKA “chemtrails” all over the Bay Area and the world

        • New Richmond Voter on October 11, 2012 at 9:39 am

          I am confused – what has N got to do with Chevron?. Is this simply the good doctor being efficient and responding to two separate platforms on one blog space, or is it a convenient way to segway from a losing N proposition in which the good doctor has become psychopathically personally involved in order not to lose face, because there is a lot of face that is going to be lost here, come November.

        • Josh on October 11, 2012 at 10:50 am

          Thanks for being a hero and protecting the consumer from his/her own stupidity Jeff. Because consumers cannot take care of themselves right?

          People are aware of the health risks involved with drinking soda. That “sodas cause obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and cancer…,” and that “we can all be healthier just by replacing soda with tap water,” is nothing new.
          Kids grow up hearing this stuff.

          A tax will raise the price, but demand will stay the same. Will the health of children really improve with a tax on soda?

      • Juan Reardon on October 11, 2012 at 1:32 pm

        I guess you can’t read, Donald…Lamentable

        • Don Gosney on October 11, 2012 at 10:10 pm

          Didn’t you write: “these corporate guys bring in their armed forces”? How will they be armed if not with something to foment violence? You don’t say in your email so the readers are left to come to their own conclusions. Considering how some of the RPA thugs operate, there’s no reason not to think that you meant violence.

          I recall reading how proud you were of the Battle in Seattle where violence was the order of the day for those demanding social change and we’ve seen how some RPA members behave come election season when they try to intimidate young women or how vandalism seems to follow where RPAers have visited so some of us are leery when you write such comments.

      • roberto reyes on October 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

        Look who’s talking. Mr Gosney has raised a few eyebrows with his marginally racist remarks and incendiary comments. The voters of Richmond know this and will not be sidetracked by his laughable words. Yes on N!

  2. Edwin on October 11, 2012 at 9:32 am

    This tax should be applied across the board to all items containing sugar, perhaps cakes, pies and Mrs. Field’s oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies as at Richmond’s Hilltop mall. Maybe such a tax should come from Contra Costa County officials that cover Richmond’s surrounding cities as well. Vote No on N and NO on O = NO

  3. Ariel Vargas on October 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Wow! lots of folks making claims about what actually improves health. I work in public health with researchers who work on this stuff, and they all seem to agree that the research thats been done points to a soda tax actually making the difference. Why? Because people do buy less of a product that’s bead for your health when it costs more, and because the steady revenue generated by the tax can be used to pay for health educaton, cooking classes, community gardens, sports programs, etc.— all the things that help reduce obesity. To say people know it already isn’t true: most people don’t know who unhealthy soda is, and how much it impacts health. Or how much obesity can actually be linked specifically to sweet drinks. This is a tax that really hurts poor people?! Really?! are those some corporations or individuals who say this working to improve the health of people? Soda and other unhealthy foods make poor people’s lives worse. I grew up poor and still work in a low-income community to improve public health, and there is no way I could live with myself if I fought to protect poor folks right to drink soda. This is not just about “protecting people from their own stupidity”, as Josh states. We all pay the price of obesity-related disease, whether it’s covering the cost of public healthcare for diabetes management, or the loss of productivity of a nation overweight, or watching our family members suffer through the burden of dialysis… we all pay now. Paying a tax up front will help us reduce the burden by ensuring there are sports programs and facilities in all communities, health education and healthcare, and access to healthy foods. If you don’t think taxes on unhealthy products make a difference, look at the example of tobacco and how anti-smoking education was supported by tobacco tax, and how we’ve reduced smoking in the US and CA. Vote yeas on N if you want to help reduce obesity and diabetes in your city!

  4. Edwin on October 15, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    Let’s just say for the sake of argument we taxed tobacco yesterday, tax sugar today, tax salts tomorrow, when we find it too be more contaminated than originally thought tax water, in the near future tax fresh air because it’s most certainly contains pollutants and get worse by the day. Finally, tax my thoughts because when I breath second hand smoke, think to drink a sweetened beverage, ask for a little salt on popcorn, drink tap water, chose to live near a freeway it’s some how proven unhealthy and such thoughts need to be taxed as well. This is funny at the same time serious, health and taxes link together but please don’t open the door on this sugar tax, Vote No on N.

  5. […] didn’t use, he said. Cinemark, the movie theater company that owns Richmond’s only theater, has contributed nearly $107,000 against the […]

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