Mark Cuban’s Landmark Theatres Accused of Distributor ‘Exploitation’ in Antitrust Lawsuit

Indie theater owners getting shut out of exclusive deals, lawsuit says

Landmark Theatres, owned by sports and media magnate Mark Cuban, has been slapped with an antitrust lawsuit, filed Wednesday by a collection of independent community movie theaters.

The document, obtained by TheWrap, argues small theater owners are getting shut out of the opportunity to run art films in their movie houses, accusing Landmark of pressuring film distributors into exclusive deals. The suit accuses Landmark of “hypocritical” actions.

“Just as Landmark sought relief from Regal’s anticompetitive clearances with respect to Commercial Films (and succeeded), Plaintiffs seek relief from Landmark’s exploitation of its circuit power to demand and obtain clearances from distributors against Plaintiffs for Specialty Films,” states the court filing from The Avalon Theatre Project, West End Cinema, the Denver Film Society and Cinema Detroit.

In January 2016, Landmark filed its own similar lawsuit against Regal Cinemas, also claiming that Regal was using its influence as a larger theater chain to make exclusive deals with studios to exhibit their films. That lawsuit was settled seven months later.

The lawsuit filed by the four indie theaters argues that Landmark is violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by using its market power to squeeze out smaller theaters to guarantee exclusive screenings of specialty films in major markets including Detroit, Denver, and Washington D.C.

Citing specific examples, the lawsuit claims that West End Cinema in Washington, D.C. was “repeatedly blocked” from showing movies at the same time as Landmark, which led to the theater’s closure in 2015 and Landmark’s lease of West End’s site just a month later. In Denver, the Sie FilmCenter claims it has been able to avoid closing due to Landmark’s clearances, but only because of its status as a non-profit and its alternate revenue streams from grants and donations.

“Landmark’s clearance practice reduces output and consumer choice; artificially inflates ticket prices; and facilitates its monopolization of the Specialty Film exhibition market in the applicable markets and in other geographic markets in which Landmark is already the dominant exhibitor of Specialty Films.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.