Landmark Theaters Suit Charges Regal With Wielding “Monopoly Power” In D.C.

Regal Entertainment Group

Landmark Theaters just opened a new front in independent exhibition’s attack on clearance deals — efforts by major chains to secure local monopolies on showings of hit films.

Landmark filed an antitrust suit at the U.S. District Court in D.C. against industry leader Regal. (Read it here.)

It alleges that the exhibition giant used its “monopoly power” in the Nation’s Capitol to  prevent Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing Cinema — which opened in October — from showing films including Burnt, Our Brand Is Crisis, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, Spectre, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

When Atlantic Plumbing asked the major studios to license their hits, “Each and every one of them responded that Regal’s Gallery Place was asserting a blanket clearance over — i.e. was refusing to play and commercial films day and date with — Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing theater” which is over a mile away from Regal’s Gallery Place.

The commercial films Atlantic Plumbing has been able to secure “are generally much less desirable and in demand” — such as Love the Coopers.

The suit asks the court to overturn Regal’s clearance agreements, and award Landmark three times its damages, litigation expenses and require the No. 1 chain to disgorge “all unlawfully obtained profits.”

Regal did not respond to a request for comment. It said earlier this week — after a Texas court slapped a temporary injunction on its similar clearance deals there — that it has a policy of not commenting on “matters involving litigation.”

The Justice Department and several state Attorneys General are looking at whether clearance deals by all of the major chains are anticompetitive. Last year Regal CFO David Ownby, responding to a question about the government investigations, told an investor gathering that clearances “have always been upheld” in courts and that they’re “good” for customers and the industry.

Landmark says that hasn’t been the case in D.C.

Since Regal’s venue opened in 2004 it “has not been substantially renovated…The typical customer experience at the Gallery Place involves long ticket and concession lines, large, loud and unpleasant crowds (including teens and children) that can destroy the movie-going experience, a virtually constant police presence, sold-out shows, exorbitantly priced, concessions, ticket price surcharges/fees, bag searches, dirty bathrooms, and standard (non-plus/oversized) seating.”

Prices for reserved tickets at Regal’s venue are as much as 44% higher when “convenience fees” are folded in, Landmark’s suit says. It adds that Atlantic Plumbing has a full bar, premium foods such as mini crab cakes and organic crispy chickpeas, and plush recliner seats.

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