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Independent CA Theater Challenges Cinemark

Are movie theatres turning into the latest versions of Starbucks? That’s what California theatre owners Bryan Cranson, Alise Benjamin and Steve Mason are saying via the LA Times.

When the three took an old, rundown, Palm Desert Cineplex and transformed it into what they call the Palme d'Or, a seven-screen theater with a French café inside, they didn’t expect to be locked in a heated, legal battle with Cinemark. But alas, here they are: literally dueling it out with the Texas-based movie theatre chain.

The three allege that Cinemark has been illegally muscling them out of the marketplace. How? By threatening to retaliate against any movie studios that book films to their theatre. Why? So that they can direct them to the River Cinema in nearby Rancho Mirage which they own.

The plot thickens.

According to the Times, the case was recently picked up by an appellate court after being dismissed by the Los Angeles County Superior Court but a trial date has yet to be set.

 "It's like they're Starbucks, we're a small coffee house, and they're preventing us from getting our coffee beans," Cranston said through the Times. “We’re fighting for our existence.”

 Co-owner Mason says that without independent theatres, entertainment is basically going to end up in the toilet.

 "If we don't have healthy independent theaters, we're going to wind up with five screens of 'Transformers' at every theater in the country and there will be no room for smaller, diverse films," he said via the Times. "It's about bringing diverse films to the marketplace."

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Bravo! Keep up the good fight. Though as entertainers we are always happy to be in a film that gets distribution without much concern as to where. But it is true that without the diversity you end up with a saturation of the same movies and few choices. How nice it would be to be able to go see a high quality movie at the theatre and not have to Netflix it. I love the indie theatres like Laemmle. The wonderful adventures you can have in the art houses. I hope we never lose them.

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