iPic Sues 2 Top Cinemas Claiming Anti-Trust

   Nov. 18, 2015—Dinner-with-a-movie theater chain iPic filed an anti-trust lawsuit against cinema giants Regal and AMC, charging they induce film distributors not to book smaller theater outfits like iPic in Texas. A knock-on effect is real estate developers are coerced not to sign leases to install theaters, the lawsuit further alleges.
   Says the iPic lawsuit: “The lawsuit alleges that these dominant theater chains are using high-pressure and unlawful practices to stifle competition, squeeze smaller theater operators out of business, and prevent them from ever being able to obtain leases from developers to develop their operations in certain locations. These same chains have also used unlawful threats to coerce real estate owners and developers from signing leases with iPic®, thereby limiting its potential to open new locations near dominant theater chains' current locations, as detailed in the lawsuit.”
    At issue is the industry practice calls “clearances,” in which a theater seeks exclusivity for some geography, such as not having another theater within a three mile radius book the same movie at the same time. Says the third edition of Marketing To Moviegoers, “Despite the availability of multiple exhibitors, film distributors tend to book movies with the same exhibitor over and over in a zone because of the simplicity in dealing with just one buyer…Exhibitors can negotiate clearances in individual booking contracts that exclude nearby rivals from showing the same film at the same time.”
    In its lawsuit, the Florida-based iPic says the big three exhibitors control 60% of screens in Houston and 69% of revenue.
    The U.S. Department of Justice is known to be examining cinema clearances practices, but has taken no action so far. Such anti-monopoly lawsuits like the iPics filing pop up sporadically.
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