Fueling the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing antitrust probe of the nation’s three largest movie theater chains, Landmark Theatres filed suit Tuesday against Regal Entertainment, charging that the largest U.S. chain violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and kept it from playing hit movies in its new theater in Washington, D.C.
Landmark, one of the largest independent theater chain in the U.S., is seeking an injunction and damages, but the ramifications of the suit go much further.
It provides more firepower for the ongoing D.C.-based antitrust probe of the nation’s largest movie chains, Regal, Cinemark Theatres and AMC Entertainment. Combined, the three control 42 percent of the nation’s roughly 39,000 movie theaters.
Landmark’s lawsuit comes days after a Houston judge granted an injunction filed by another independent chain, iPic, against Regal in a similar restraint suit. At least six suits against the big three chains are pending across the country, all charging that they used monopolistic power in denying nearby smaller rivals access to the market or to screening major movies.
Landmark alleges that Regal used its muscle to keep Sony, Lionsgate and Disney from delivering blockbuster movies “Spectre,” “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing Cinema.
The six-screen, 344-seat theater located in the Shaw/Howard University neighborhood opened on Oct. 15, in direct competition with the nearby Regal Gallery Place Stadium 14, a 3,350-seat theater.
Regal controls 3,350 of 3,684 total commercial film seats in the densely populated “District Core” neighborhood of the city, a 91 percent market share that Landmark claimed in its filing is “indeed, monopoly.”
“Regal’s message to the distributors was clear,” the complaint stated. “If you license a commercial film to Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing theater, Regal can and will use its monopoly power in the District Core, its dominance in the greater D.C. DMA, and its national circuit power, to retaliate against you, both by denying your film its full grossing potential in the District Core by not playing it at the Gallery Place, and by reserving the right to disadvantage your film’s prospects at any of Regal’s 575 theaters across the country.”
Regal declined to comment on pending litigation. Ted Mundorff, Landmark’s president and CEO, declined comment on the advice of the company’s attorney, including Perkins Coie’s Barry Reingold, who is heading up the case.
Landmark said in the suit that it was was also denied access to “Burnt” from the Weinstein Company and “Our Brand Is Crisis” from Warner Bros.