Thursday, October 6, 2011

California Lawsuit Brings Theater Clearance Zones to Forefront

By Juliet Goodfriend, President, Bryn Mawr Film Institute

Last week the Los Angeles Times published an article detailing the lawsuit brought against Cinemark, one of the top theater chains, by the owners of the Palme d'Or, an independent theater in Palm Desert, California. The suit, which reporter Richard Verrier calls a "David-versus-Goliath battle in the desert," cites that Cinemark, which operates a nearby theater complex, has been "circuit dealing", using their clout to prevent distributors from allowing the smaller Palme d'Or to certain films. You can read the full article here.

This article brings to the foreground an unfair competitive practice that has troubled BMFI for years: chain theaters drawing unreasonable non-compete zones (so-called "clearance zones") around them and not letting independent theaters show the same film at the same time (showing "day and date"). In our region it is mostly the Clearview Bala and Anthony Wayne that we struggle against; rarely the Narberth.

The good news for BMFI is that distributors have learned that their films will earn much more here than at the local chains, so we are more likely to get the movies we want, when we want them. And we think you'll enjoy them more at our theater.

The legal case in California will no doubt unearth an older case in Philadelphia between the Roxy and the Ritz. The Roxy lost that one. Let's see how the new case comes out--maybe the little guy will win for once.

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