No Hollywood Ending for Historic Queens Cinema


     MANHATTAN (CN) — The plucky cinema from Queens would have trounced the Goliath movie-theater chain if this drama played out in Hollywood, but Cinemart was no match for Regal Entertainment in the cold light of day.
     Built in 1925, Cinema Village Cinemart boasts the Queens Historical Society’s distinction as the borough’s oldest, continuously operated, independent movie theater.
     As though pulled from a Norman Rockwall painting, the theater sits in one of the most suburban neighborhoods in Queens, nestled on a side street among antique stores and directly across from an ice cream shop. It offers low-price tickets and concessions to a mostly local, elderly audience.
     That is to say, Cinemart is one of the least-likely theaters one would expect to go toe-to-toe in federal court against Regal, a publically traded movie giant with billions of dollars in assets and more than 7,300 screens in 42 states, plus Guam, Saipan, American Samoa and the District of Columbia.
     The kingly enterprise is headquartered in the entertainment hub of Nashville, Tenn., internationally known as Music City U.S.A.
     Roughly a mile away from Cinemart, Regal operates a movie theater called Midway, with nine screens to the indie theater’s five.
     When it comes to getting a leg up on the competition, as Mel Brooks quipped: “It’s good to be the king.”
     Midway not only has stadium-style seating for its customers, but also the first bite of the apple for major Warner Bros. releases.
     Warner Bros. stopped its practice of giving both Regal and Cinemart “first-run” contracts in February 2015, starting with offering the chain earlier showings of “American Sniper.”
     Other major studios followed Warner Bros.’s lead, and Cinemart filed a federal antitrust lawsuit months later in Manhattan to stay afloat.
     U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan denied the indie theater its Hollywood ending Thursday.
     Dismissing the case, Sullivan said Cinemart failed to state claim for improper collusion.
     “Regal could have made the unremarkable business decision to devote its screens to films that do not play simultaneously at a nearby theater,” the 18-page ruling states.
     “In light of that decision, distributors of first-run films might reasonably have elected to license films to Regal rather than to CVC, perhaps seeing greater value in Regal’s brand, location, and ‘upscale’ amenities,” Sullivan added.
     Regal Entertainment Group did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.
     Neither Cinemart’s offices in Queens, nor its Los Angeles-based lawyers, have returned requests for comment ahead of business hours Monday.

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