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Smaller theaters take on "800-pound gorilla" in antitrust lawsuit

Putting it in a way that even a child could easily understand, some aggrieved parties are merely asking a bigger playmate to share the toys.

And it won't, they say, which has now driven an ongoing dispute to a federal courtroom, where several comparatively small theaters that showcase independent films are seeking an injunction and money damages in a case that pits them against a far larger rival.

That competitor is Landmark Theatres, which the Denver Film Society and three co-plaintiffs contend is engaging in monopolistic tactics that deny them a fair opportunity to freely compete in the movie marketplace.

Specifically, and as noted in a recent media report detailing lawsuit details, the plaintiffs allege that Landmark "uses its market muscle to keep them from showing certain first-run movies in markets where they compete against the big art-house chain."

Landmark's alleged monopolistic strategy: executing contracts with film distributors that basically coerce those parties into working only with Landmark.

That tactic stifles competition, say the plaintiffs, and is an unlawful violation of America's antitrust laws promoting healthy competition and an unbridled marketplace.

The smaller independent entities cite a myriad of harms that ensue from Landmark's alleged hard-ball behavior. They assert that film makers are denied a legitimate say regarding where they want their products screened. And they point to a constriction of consumer choice that erodes both product quality and fair interaction among industry players.

Landmark and its parent company are owned by billionaire Mark Cuban. To date, Landmark has not issued a public response to the litigation filed last week.

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