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Rio Theatre takes on Cineplex for its monopoly of the movie market
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver's Rio Theatre is taking on Cineplex, claiming the entertainment giant has an illegal monopoly of the movie market.
The independent theatre has now launched a petition, asking the Canadian Competition Bureau to step in.
"To me it just points to pure greed," said Corrine Lea, the owner of the Rio.
"We've launched a petition to stop Cineplex from crushing independent theatres."
The change.org petition received 8,000 signatures in a week.
Cineplex owns about 75 per cent of the Canadian market.
"When the distributor's largest client says, 'If you give that film to the Rio, we're going to pull all our screenings,' of course they're going to stick with their largest client," Lea told CTV News.
The Rio has been waiting for the Oscar-winning film "Parasite" for five months.
"Films are kind of like produce: their freshness expires eventually," Lea said.
The Rio is one of two independent theatres left in Vancouver.
It was nearly forced to close its doors for good back in 2018, when a developer moved into the neighbourhood.
Staff held fundraisers to buy the building for months, even getting the support of Vancouver native and actor Ryan Reynolds.
The owner of the other independent theatre in town, the Dunbar Theatre, says small theatres won’t survive if the government fails to establish a level playing field.
“Allow me to sell the same product. Let's fight on price and service, not on their ability to be able to do it," said Ken Charko, the president of the Dunbar.
Charko says small theatres have always faced barriers, including being forced to wait weeks to screen new movies.
Even after they get permission, they are often given even more restrictions, and are sometimes forced to play the movie in the weeks after demand is gone.
Cineplex declined an on camera interview with CTV News, but provided an emailed statement.
“Cineplex does not own the rights to movies, we licence them from Canadian distributors to play in our theatres," said Sarah Van Lange, the executive director of communications for Cineplex Entertainment.
“It is up to film distributors where they play their movies."
Lea says Cineplex’s response is misleading and doesn’t tell the whole story.
"We are really hoping the Competition Bureau will step in and take action," she said.
In an email statement, the federal agency said it was aware of Rio Theatre’s petition, but couldn’t confirm if it was investigating due to confidentiality rules.
“The bureau takes all allegations of anti-competitive conduct seriously. Should we find evidence of conduct contrary to the Competition Act, we will not hesitate to take appropriate action," read the statement.
"What are the rules? No one will say, and that leads someone to believe that there is collusion," said Charko.
Cineplex was recently acquired by Cineworld, one of the largest movie companies on the globe.
There are concerns it could wipe out the competition and choices for moviegoers.
"We're just asking Cineplex to do what we ask all our children to do who are in kindergarten which is share."
Lea plans to file an official complaint with the Bureau in the coming days.