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A national David vs. Goliath story in the film business has the side effect of pitting two local theatres that show art and specialty films against each other.

Four small theatres, including Cinema Detroit located in the Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, are suing Landmark Theatres and their parent company 2929 Entertainment (owned by billionaire and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban), claiming that the chain is coercing agreements from film distributors.

The suit was filed by Cinema Detroit as well as The Avalon Theatre Project and West End Cinema in Washington, D.C., and the Denver Film Society.

Landmark operates movie theatres in 22 metro areas around the country. In Metro Detroit, Landmark operates the three screen Landmark Main Art Theatre in downtown Royal Oak.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, this follows a previous lawsuit by Landmark in 2016 against Regal Entertainment. In the case that was settled in August of last year, Landmark said that Regal used their “monopoly” footprint to “coerce” large film distributors to not allow smaller or independent theatres to show popular films.

As to today’s news, in the complaint: 

“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.”

“Specialty Films” are generally considered art, documentary, foreign and independent films.

The heart of the complaint and why, Cinema Detroit and others assert, Landmark is violating the Sherman Antitrust Act is this:

Landmark is leveraging its circuit-wide market power to squeeze Plaintiffs — smaller exhibitors that lack anywhere near the same reach and clout — out of screening popular Specialty Films in the applicable markets. 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.

Editor’s note: The owners of Cinema Detroit recently appeared on our Daily Detroit Happy Hour podcast. Take a listen here.

H/T: The Hollywood Reporter