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Clearance pacts between film distributors and theatrical exhibitors could be on the pathway towards extinction.
On Wednesday, Regal Entertainment and Mark Cuban-owned Landmark Theatres stipulated to the dismissal of an antitrust lawsuit involving allegations that Regal coerced film distributors like Sony, Lionsgate and Disney into depriving its smaller competitor in Washington, D.C., of first-run films.
According to Thomas Boeder, an attorney at Perkins Coie who represented the plaintiff, “There is a settlement. What has happened is there is no clearances anymore, and Atlantic Plumbing gets everything they requested.”
Atlantic Plumbing refers to the six-screen, 344-seat theater operated by Landmark in the Shaw/Howard University neighborhood of Washington. It’s a newer theater, but in the lawsuit, it was alleged that the older and nearby Regal Gallery Place Stadium got the best blockbusters like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens because Regal sent a message to distributors that if they gave Atlantic Plumbing these films, they risked those films’ prospects at any of Regal’s 575 theaters across the country.
In response to the lawsuit, Regal painted this as fair competition and argued there weren’t factual allegations supporting supposed agreements between it and the film distributors.
The judge never ruled, but with some film studios now saying they won’t honor clearance agreements and with the Justice Department continuing to investigate the issue, this case is now over. Others continue, including a lawsuit against AMC in the Houston market, another against AMC in Georgia and one against Regal in Texas.
Boeder says there were no financial considerations in the deal. “We settled for abandonment of clearances,” he says.
Regal hasn’t responded yet to a request for comment.
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