Hearne: Round Two of AMC Town Center vs. Cinetopia Complete with Anti Trust Implications

jolie-maleficent-meet-the-other-fairies-of-maleficentOne thing seems pretty obvious…

That Cinetopia did not plow however many millions into its ritzy new movieplex, the Overland Park 18 with the intention of getting to show only half of new blockbuster movies like Transformers and 22 Jump Street.

Equally obvious at this point is no way Kansas City based AMC is willing to compete with Cinetopia on a level playing field at its nearby Town Center 20. Not with both theaters playing the same movies while vying for an overlapping movie audience.

For example, Town Center passed on potential blockbusters like X-Men, Blended, A million Ways to Die in the West and Maleficent thpast two weeks, while Cinetopia cleaned up at the box office.

But times change…

And starting this week, Town Center will get the new Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow – and Cinetopia won’t – and Cinetopia will get The Fault in Our Stars, which Town Center won’t be playing.

Indicating that AMC’s game of hard ball with movie distributors is working…for now.

“It’s a foregone conclusion that Cinetopia’s not going to get all the movies, unless there’s a lawsuit or something else happens,” says a movie insider.

Rudyard Coltman

Rudyard Coltman

Speak of the devil!

As we speak, Southeast movie chain Cobb Theaters is pursuing an anti trust lawsuit against the now Chinese-owned AMC “alleging AMC has used its worldwide market power to coerce film distributors to deprive competitors of access to studio films,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. “AMC owns about 350 theaters with more than 5,000 screens in North America. It’s the second-largest theater circuit in the U.S., and after being acquired by Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group, wields enormous power as the world’s largest cinema operator. Now the question is whether AMC is abusing that power.”

Cobb’s contention:

“Dominant exhibitor circuits like AMC derive substantial market power from their ability to provide numerous exhibition locations or runs simultaneously to distributors for the wide release of a film, including locations in non-competitive zones where a distributor has no other alternative exhibitor to play a film.”

According to the Reporter, Cobb “beat AMC in the leasing of a space for a theater in Georgia, and afterward, AMC’s head film buyer sent a letter to major film distributors demanding preferential or exclusive licensing treatment over Cobb’s new theater.”

Uh, sound familiar? 

“Cobb says major film studios complied with the demand, and as a result, they’ve been shortchanged on the bigger movies.”

Hey look, in a perfect world moviegoers would have the choice of seeing X-Men in the movieplex of their choice. If Cinetopia is closer and/or patrons prefer a more upscale experience with superior dining and concession offerings, they should be able to vote with their wallets. Rather than be forced to go to what they may regard as a lesser theater solely because of back room corporate power plays.

To that end, Cobb is fingering AMC for “attempted monopolization of the market for film licenses (and a) ruthless campaign to prevent Cobb from competing with AMC.”

“AMC is trying to establish a perimeter,” says the KC movie industry source. “That’s the opposite of what former AMC head Peter Brown did. Brown took the attitude that AMC would play with anybody. But new head Gerry Lopez is basically saying, ‘Don’t fuck with us.’ ”

AMC's Gerry Lopez

AMC’s Gerry Lopez

Here’s the deal:

Many of AMC’s many theaters are undoubtedly older, like Town Center was prior to AMC plowing millions into sprucing it up with reclining movie seats, new concession offerings and the like – just ahead of Cinetopia’s arrival here. It did a similar redo at the AMC Ward Parkway 14 two years ago.

That said, the prospect of having to throw perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars into staving off competitors nationwide is a daunting one. And what better way of discouraging that sort of competition than making it clear to the potential competitors that they’ll have to recoup their investments with one hand tied behind their backs by only getting half the new movies?

“A number of theater people think that a year from now AMC will blink and play day-and-date with Cinetopia,” the insider says. “Others think they won’t because of the lawsuit and to protect their other theaters nationwide. It’s going to be very interesting to watch.”

Word on the street is that Cinetopia outperformed Town Center at the box office the past two weeks. Not surprising given Cinetopia’s had all the new blockbusters and Town Center didn’t.

10345731_662787873756323_8744193231659645101_nOne wild card:

Cinetopia owner Rudyard Coltman is an experienced business lawyer who is quoted on the Oregon State Bar website as saying, “As a lawyer I learned the research tools that guided me through (the) process’ of opening”  his company.

“I feel I was much more adequately equipped to deal with the negotiations involved in Cinetopia because of my legal background,” Coltman added.

Coltman’s also a movie freak who’s dreamed of opening “a larger theater in a more metropolitan area.”

With the Cinetopia Overland Park 18, Coltman now has three.

What’s more, Coltman doesn’t seem the type to get pushed around.

Several years ago for example, the 40-something Coltman went toe-to-toe with Baker City, Oregon over a sprinkler system dispute that kept his theater closed and lasted more than a year.

No way he’s going to abide with half the movies. And does it really make sense for local moviegoers not to be able to see the movies of their choice at what is clearly now Kansas City’s finest movie plex?

Stay tuned.

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3 Responses to Hearne: Round Two of AMC Town Center vs. Cinetopia Complete with Anti Trust Implications

  1. Bob says:

    Tony just put a post up about Horner moving back here.

    • Hearne says:

      What can I say, he reads KCC?

      As does the Star’s Tim Engle, who wrote a piece yesterday based on little more than your Facebook news and no contact with Katie.

      I’ve been having a ton of computer problems the past few weeks and bought a new MacBook Pro, so other than driving to Wakarusa Friday and coming back Sunday – no WIFI on “the mountain” – I’ll be getting back in form ASAP.

      But hey, Tony always rips off other media’s news, spins it and calls it an “exclusive.”

      Clay Chastain sent out an email blast to media yesterday and Tony has it as “an exclusive.”

      I’m going to tip my hat you you for breaking the story. And say thanks!

  2. Bob says:

    Uh, I broke no news. She put it on her Facebook page. I was just trying to help you out a bit as I know Tony and you like sparing over who is first.

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