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Two for Avatar, a tub of broccoli and a large prune juice please

For many, a night out at the movies would not be complete without the sound of popcorn and chocolate wrappers rustling in the stalls.

One of the most powerful studio bosses in Hollywood, however, would like to see cinemas selling healthier snacks.

Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures, says that audiences would be better off nibbling on granola bars, fruit salad, yogurt and vegetable crudites with dips.

"I can almost imagine the Romans eating popcorn and drinking Coke at the Colosseum 2,000 years ago," he said.

The average cinema bucket of buttered popcorn has 1,100 calories -- the equivalent of six McDonald's cheeseburgers.

Behind Mr Lynton's call is an awareness of obesity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Last month Tim Smith, the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency in Britain, called for filmgoers to be told how many calories there are in the popcorn, ice cream and fizzy drinks that they buy in cinemas and for them to be available in smaller portions.

However, Mr Lynton admitted that old habits might die hard.

"I don't think giant tubs of spinach or broccoli is a good idea," he said.

"And nobody wants to eat cauliflower while watching Spider-Man, or drink a 40oz cup of prune juice."

Deirdre Flynn, spokesman for US popcorn processors, said: "If you ask most consumers what they consider the number one movie snack, they will tell you it's popcorn.

"Popcorn and movies have gone hand in hand since the early 1900s."