Vancouver's independent Rio Theatre along with a gang of other small theatres just accused Cineplex of using illegal business tactics against independent theatres. In a petition written on Tuesday, February 11, the Rio claims Cineplex stole their profits by blocking them from showing popular films. They've collected thousands of signatures within a week, and hope to draw the attention of Canada's Competition Bureau.

Rio and their newly formed gang of independent theatres called the Network of Independent Canadian Exhibitors (NICE) are accusing Cineplex of cornering film distributors.

They've started a petition to bring attention to the issue, with the goal of collecting 10,000 signatures. At the time of this article being written, over 8,700 people have signed.

The goal, said Rio Owner Corinne Lea to Narcity, is to grab the attention of the Competition Bureau of Canada. Lea hopes they'll put stronger regulations on Cineplex, and maybe compensate independent theatres for profits lost to Cineplex.

"We're just tired of taking it, you know?" said Lea to Narcity. "Independent theaters have been struggling to make a living for years. Cineplex is just using their power as a monopoly to shut us out."

Lea explained that theatres have exclusive rights to show a film for a short period before the movie becomes available everywhere.

However, she claims that Cineplex is making smaller theatres wait longer and longer to receive the rights to popular films like Parasite or Jojo Rabbit. This makes that exclusive showing period shorter, costing them in profits.

This is interesting hear, considering experts claimed Cineplex risked going out of business due to online streaming services.

In a statement to Narcity, Cineplex Executive Director of Communications Sarah Van Lange wrote that Cineplex doesn't own any of the films they show and that they can't control when smaller theatres receive exclusive rights.

"It is up to film distributors to decide where they play their films," she wrote.

However, Lea said Van Lange's statement was "misleading."

"What they're omitting is that if a distributor tries to give an independent theatre a screening, then Cineplex will say, 'Okay, then we're going to pull our screenings of that film,'" she explained.

She continued: "If your number one top-selling customer says: 'I'm going to not sell your product if you give it to my competitor,' then obviously they're influencing the situation."

Although the situation had been happening for years, said Lea, the final tipping point was when Cineplex announced they were being sold to Cineworld.

"Once Cineworld buys Cineplex, it will be the largest exhibitor in North America," she said.

Independent theatres fear the situation would get much worse once the merger happens, she continued.

Lea confirmed that the Rio has a scheduled call with the Competition Bureau, and that the bureau is aware of the case.

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