When Theaters Sue
What happens when movie theaters sue each other?
Usually if you heard about a lawsuit involving a movie theater it revolved around, say, an accident that occurred on the premises or a theater chain being sued because a patron was allowed to imbibe too much alcohol.
Today, January 20 was the court date for a hearing regarding antitrust violations that iPic Theaters has filed against Regal Cinemas and AMC Theaters. Cinemark, AMC and Regal are the three largest theater chains in North America.
“We are a completely different experience. It’s not a traditional theater like AMC, Regal or whoever else,” says iPic CEO Hamid Hashemi to Free Press Houston in a phone interview. “Regal claims that we’re competition, which we’re not. Our auditoriums are 40 seats to 80 seats. The Regal’s largest house has 570 seats. The position that they’ve taken is that if a picture plays in our theater they will not show it in their theater.”
Specifically Hashemi refers to the Regal Edwards Grand Palace at 3839 Weslyan at Richmond. The iPic Theater sits several blocks north of the Grand Palace at 4444 Westheimer in the River Oaks District Shopping Mall.
At the time the iPic opened last November new films would have included The Hunger Games and Love The Coopers. Exclusively, iPic got The Hunger Games and the Grand Palace got Love the Coopers. Likewise iPic scored with engagements of the Bond film Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the Grand Palace had exclusive dibs for the 70mm engagement of The Hateful Eight.
“Viva Cinemas was an independent operations and AMC did the same thing to them. Viva went out of business in six months.” Viva Cinema catered to Hispanic audiences showing mainstream films with Spanish subtitles and was located in the PlazAmericas Shopping Centre, formerly known as Sharpstown Mall.
“We have a theater in Austin that’s 1.6-miles away from a Regal. We play the same product along side of them. We’ve demonstrated that the business that we do is completely independent from the business that they do,” adds Hashemi.
Having personally been to both theaters it’s obvious that they cater to different audiences. The tickets for iPic showings are $28 a head, versus $8 to $12 at the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace RPX Theater, equipped with top notch Dolby Atmos surround sound and comfortable wide seats has a top price of $16.43 for an adult ticket.
iPic provides lush surroundings including luxury reclining seats, glasses and plates instead of plastic cups, along with a high-end restaurant and brand new screens and projectors. iPic offers the first class seats at the front of the plane while most theaters provide the equivalent of coach or business seats. However, to the viewer watching a movie the plane lands on the runway at the same time.
Certainly movies are one of the least expensive forms of entertainment when compared to tickets to the opera, plays or sports events. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in upcoming weeks.
— Michael Bergeron