Stop Cineplex From Crushing Indie Theatres!
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For years independent theatres have struggled to keep their doors open. Despite many difficulties, Vancouver's Rio Theatre has managed to survive and overcome overwhelming obstacles. For example, in 2012, The Rio Theatre launched a successful campaign to change the BC liquor laws allowing movie theatres to serve alcohol across the Province of British Columbia.
Following the success of the campaign to change the liquor laws, The Rio Theatre business was thriving! In 2018 as the City of Vancouver increased density for redevelopment the property came up for sale and developers made an offer to purchase the property with plans to tear down the theatre and build condos. Instead of giving up, with the support of the community, The Rio raised $8 million to buy the property and save the iconic theatre from demolition.
Once again, The Rio faces perhaps one of its biggest challenges to date. It is well known in our industry that Cineplex, the largest corporate cinema chain in Canada with 80% of the Canadian box office, has for years, dictated the market to block films from independent theatres. This unlawful practice has gone unchecked for years. Now on the cusp of a major deal for the UK's Cineworld to purchase Cineplex, which would make it the largest cinema circuit in North America by number of screens, the need for regulation has become urgent.
For those who are not familiar with our industry, in order for cinemas to screen any film they have to book the films with distributors. By controlling the market with these distributors Cineplex has a monopoly on films, thereby shutting out independent theatres from booking films until the giant cinema chain has squeezed out every dollar before allowing independent theatres to have a chance to screen them.
Cineplex has an informal and unlawful arrangement with film distributors that will not allow films to be booked with any competing theatres until Cineplex is done screening the film. If a distributor tries to book a film with an indie theatre anywhere near a Cineplex location, the cinema giant will simply threaten to pull all of their screenings of that particular film in the area. Leaving the distributors no choice but to shut out the smaller independent theatres that simply cannot compete under these unfair terms. This kind of underhanded business practice has made it very difficult for independently owned theatres to survive and limits the public access to popular movies in our local neighbourhood.
The Rio has often had to wait 3-6 months after a film has been released before we have been "allowed" by Cineplex to book films. To explain how our industry works, there are first run cinemas (where new films are screened on the opening weekend and played for a number of weeks), and then there are second run cinemas, (where films are screened sometime after the first opening weeks). The Rio Theatre is a second run cinema and like many indie theatres we rely on playing films on a split schedule instead of playing a full run film dedicated to one screen. This allows single screen theatres to have a variety of programing instead of only playing one film for weeks at a time. It is common in the industry to wait 2-6 weeks for a film to become second run and 4 - 6 weeks to allow films to book split screenings. However, waiting 3-6 months is completely unacceptable and goes against industry standards.
Lack of enforcement of the regulations in our industry has allowed this monopoly to continue even though it violates antitrust / competition laws. These kind of bullying tactics from Cineplex are a major reason why we have lost so many of our independent theatres across Canada and similar issues with other large corporations have also caused closures of indie theatres in the USA. Essentially, these corporate cinema chains are an "old boys club" making up their own rules to give themselves an advantage against all other competitors filling their pockets while indie theatres are forced to shut down. It is against the law to participate in these kind of unfair exclusive business practices, but they're not going to regulate themselves so that means we have to stop them!
The Canadian Competition Bureau laws state:
"Competition law prohibits businesses from: Entering into anti-competitive agreements or concerted practices with others. Competition law applies not only to formal agreements but also to any sort of informal arrangement between businesses, whether written or verbal, which has an anti-competitive object or effect."
We ask that Cineplex cease and desist their bullying tactics dictating the market and blocking independent theatres from booking films with distributors. We expect the corporation to follow the lawful practices that were put in place to protect small businesses from a monopoly dominating the market. We also ask that the Canadian Competition Bureau step in to enforce the Competition Act that prevents this kind of monopoly from continuing.
Considering that screening films at smaller theatres would barely make a dent in the bottom line profits for giant corporations and considering the CEO of Cineplex is paid $4.2 million per year, it appears that corporate greed is once again crushing the little guy at the expense of our indie theatre culture.
Please sign this petition to show your support for independently owned and operated theatres across Canada. Or send a personal letter expressing your concerns to the following:
Matthew Boswell Commissioner of Competition Matthew.firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Guilbeault Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven.Guilbeault@parl.gc.ca
Ellis Jacob CEO of Cineplex email@example.com
Moshe Greidinger CEO of Cineworld Mooky.Greidinger@cineworld.co.uk
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