Obesity Spurs Growing Need for Bigger Seats

Fat-bottomed girls again

Because of big bottoms, theater owners are taking it on the chin. This issue may seem frivolous, but to struggling businesses and grant-supported institutions, it’s as serious as an obesity-induced heart attack. As budgets get smaller, customers get bigger, and any meaningful renovation of the premises now has to include new seating.

Of course, not only are the seats themselves expensive and the installation costs sizeable, but the very fact that each seated person will have more personal space means fewer seats overall. And that means that fewer tickets can be sold for each performance, which is never a good thing.

Julie Banderas and others on the Fox News team recently reported on the obesity-related activity at the New York City Center, where total seat replacement is underway. People have gotten taller, and they need more leg room, so the rows will be farther apart. People are also carrying around more junk in the trunk. The seats in this performance hall used to vary from 17 inches wide to 20 inches wide. The new seats will start at 19 inches, with some as spacious 22 inches.

It kind of makes you wonder if the wide-load seating is labeled as such. Do amply proportioned customers get shunted off to a “Siberia,” like the smoking area in a restaurant? Or are the big chairs scattered around throughout the theater? Do you specify a wide seat when reserving a ticket? Wouldn’t it be somewhat embarrassing to have your seating choices limited by that consideration?

The article quotes John Coyne of Theatre Projects USA:

We worked on over 1,200 theatre buildings, live performing arts centers and we’ve noticed that over the last several years that there has been a trend of demand for seating getting bigger.

In these upscale venues, the pricey tickets lead patrons of the arts to expect that their needs will be accommodated, including the need for a seat that can be sat in. Another interviewee, Cynthia Sass, is a nutritionist who thinks the root of the problem is not being addressed. The root is in the culture — in many cultures — where overeating is an emotional band-aid or a social convention. These factors contribute to childhood obesity, and then persist into adulthood.

Sass points out that the movie theater environment is “set up to support obesity.” As in many restaurants, servings are large. If it’s just you and a large tub of popcorn, as many as 1,200 calories will be converted to flab, somewhere on your frame. And that’s not even including the extra-large soda pop to appease the craving for liquid, brought on by all that salt.

A firm called Theater Projects Consultants has learned that, over the past 20 years, the average width of theater seats has grown from 21 to 22 inches. Actually, that’s not very impressive. It’s only half an inch over 10 years, so, at that rate, theaters are not really keeping up with obesity as we know it. A kind of vicious cycle of inflation is going on. Bigger snacks lead to bigger seats, which leads to increased attendance by obese moviegoers who enjoy gargantuan buckets of popcorn.

Music Bonus:
Big Bottom by Spinal Tap. (Maybe not for kids.) Lyrics by Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer:

Big bottom, big bottom
Talk about mud flaps, my girl’s got ’em
Big bottom drive me out of my mind
How could I leave this behind?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Larger Audience Members Demand Bigger Seats,” FOXNews.com, 08/03/10
Image by Ibanda (Ian Bertram), used under its Creative Commons license.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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