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AMC dealt Cinetopia in OP's Prairiefire location a "crippling blow," lawsuit says

Soaring four stories tall, the GXL theater features a 75-foot-tall screen and seats 450 moviegoers at the Cinetopia in the Prairiefire Shopping Center in Overland Park.
Soaring four stories tall, the GXL theater features a 75-foot-tall screen and seats 450 moviegoers at the Cinetopia in the Prairiefire Shopping Center in Overland Park. File

Cinetopia, an upstart movie theater chain, is taking on its top competitor in federal court, suing AMC Entertainment Inc. on antitrust claims.

Cinetopia, a Beaverton, Ore.-based company with four locations, accuses AMC of leveraging exclusive showings of first-run blockbuster films to the detriment of competing theater chains.

The lawsuit, filed on Friday in federal court in Kansas, focuses on Cinetopia's location in Overland Park development Prairiefire. The lawsuit claims that after Cinetopia rebuffed AMC's offer to buy the Prairiefire location in 2013, AMC obtained exclusive showings of blockbuster films including "Godzilla," "Million Dollar Arm" and "The Good Dinosaur."

Cinetopia said AMC's practice, known in the industry as "movie clearance," torpedoed Cinetopia's business prospects in Overland Park.

An AMC spokesman said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Cinetopia is a key tenant in Prairiefire, a 60-acre development along 135th Street between Nall and Lamar avenues.

Prairiefire developer Fred Merrill Jr. has previously cited AMC's clearance practices as harmful to Cinetopia and, by extension, the rest of the development.

In 2016, a filing posted on the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board database indicated that Cinetopia was given notice by Prairiefire's developer that it had unpaid rent.

AMC has a theater location less than 3 miles from Cinetopia.

The Cinetopia lawsuit points to other instances in which it's alleged that AMC exerted pressure on competitors through movie clearance. An example cited in the lawsuit is a 2010 instance in which AMC allegedly used clearance against Studio Movie Grill in the Northland, prompting Studio Movie Grill to close and leave AMC's Barrywood 24 complex as the only theater in the area.

AMC has acknowledged in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, most recently in a March 1 quarterly report, that it has received civil investigative demands from the Justice Department and several state attorneys general regarding movie clearance. AMC said it does not believe it has violated federal or state laws.

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