Palme d'Or theater case against Cinemark moves closer to trial
The scrappy owners of the Palme d'Or theater in Palm Desert won another bout in their legal brawl with Texas cinema giant Cinemark.
Flagship, which owns the art house cinema, has been fighting Cinemark for years, alleging that the nation's third-largest cinema chain used its marketing clout to pressure Hollywood studios to not book first-run movies at the Palme.
In 2008, the state Superior Court dismissed Flagship's lawsuit, but the case was revived recently in a ruling by a California Court of Appeals. Cinemark asked the court to reconsider the ruling but its request for rehearing was denied last week.
"I believe this case has a chance to really impact our industry and help to preserve independent theaters all over the country,'' said Steve Mason, co-owner of the Palme d'Or and co-host of an ESPN Radio talk show in Los Angeles. Other owners include Bryan Cranston of AMC's "Breaking Bad" and Alise Benjamin-Mauritzson, co-producer of the Oscar-nominated film "Ray."
Cinemark has denied engaging in so-called "circuit dealing," which has been ruled illegal under a series of Supreme Court decisions, and is expected to appeal the decision.
The case, which was filed in 2006, is being closely watched by independent theater owners across the country who feel increasingly squeezed by the top four major theater chains.
Top distribution executives from several major studios are expected to testify when the lawsuit proceeds to trial in Los Angeles Superior Court.
-- Richard Verrier
Photo: The Palme d'Or art house theater in Palm Desert is locked in a legal battle with Texas-based circuit Cinemark. Credit: Andreas Maurtizson / Flagship Theatres.