A possible merger of the Loews-Sony and Cineplex Odeon movie chains would violate federal antitrust law and raise ticket prices — already the highest in the nation, Public Advocate Mark Green charged yesterday.
Green said a “new Sony” would account for 42% of the 351 movie screens across the city. He said just two chains — the combined Sony-Cineplex Odeon along with United Artists — would own 67% of screens in the city, with the next closest competitor holding only 8% of the action.
As a result, Green charged at a news conference outside the Sony Lincoln Square Theatres at Broadway and 68th St., prices would surely go up.
“The $15 movie ticket will be coming to a theater near you if the Loews-Sony acquisition of Cineplex Odeon is approved,” Green said.
In a formal petition to Federal Trade Commission Chairman Robert Pitofsky, Green contended the merger would represent a “blatant violation” of the Clayton Antitrust Act, which prohibits any acquisition that may “substantially lessen competition” or “tend to create a monopoly.”
Green said he feared such a merger would force independent movie houses to close.
“What big movie studio would sell ‘Forrest Gump 2’ or ‘Terminator 4’ to an independent exhibitor or a small movie chain when the new Sony could dictate price because they have market power?” Green asked.
He warned particularly of a “Manhattan movie monopoly,” because the combined conglomerate would control 61% of screens in the borough, already home to average ticket prices of $8.75.
To assess the impact of the acquisition, Green’s staff checked theaters showing the top 10 grossing films for the weekend ending Aug. 17.
All nine Manhattan theaters showing “Cop Land” were owned by Sony or Cineplex Odeon. Of the nine showing the No. 2 film, “Air Force One,” five would be owned by the “new Sony.”
Officials from the movie chains have confirmed talks regarding the possible merger to industry trade publications, including the Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety.
Original Story Date: 091497