Another challenge for small DC theaters: actually being allowed to show movies

Rendering via Landmark Theaters

We’ve talked about the struggles of DC movie theaters in the past, especially neighborhood community theaters like the recently re-opened West End Cinema that have to compete with major chains and often need to foot the bill for new digital projection systems themselves. As it turns out, costs of operation aren’t even the biggest obstacle to running a small theater: sometimes the big brands can just completely box them out.

The Washington Post recently published an article about the bizarre phenomenon of “clearances” in which major theater groups can pressure film distributors into providing exclusive access to some movies. In the specific case mentioned by the Post, one of Landmark Theaters’ new DC locations couldn’t play the James Bond movie Spectre because Regal had to cloud to limit its availability. A number of lawsuits are in motion – including from Landmark – and the Department of Justice’s anti-trust wing is reportedly investigating these practices.

Such is another odd wrinkle in the life of a local theater. Even if you can afford to operate your theater and maintain its equipment – no small feat even for large theaters nowadays – you might just not be able to show the most popular movies. Remember to support your favorite limited-run theater in the area when they show something you’re interested in watching!

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