Proposed Movie Merger Draws Criticism

Article excerpt

Byline: Chrystal Caruthers Daily Herald Business Writer

A lead role

The proposed merger of the Cineplex Odeon and Sony/Loews movie theater businesses will give the company more than 60 percent market share in the Chicago area. That has some competitors and consumer advocates concerned.

Sony/Loews

suburban locations

Rolling Meadows

Streamwood

Cineplex Odeon

suburban locations

Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook

Fox Valley Center, Aurora

Foxfield, St. Charles

Grove Cinema,

Downers Grove

Stratford Square,

Bloomingdale

Spring Hill, Carpentersville

Rice Lake Square Cinemas,

Wheaton

Bloomingdale Court Cinemas,

Bloomingdale

Westridge Court, Naperville

Golf Glen, Des Plaines

Golf Mill, Niles

Hawthorn Shopping Center,

Vernon Hills

Town & Country Mall,

Arlington Heights

Ridge Cinemas,

Arlington Heights

Woodfield Shopping Center,

Schaumburg

One Schaumburg Place,

Schaumburg

Rivertree Court Cinemas,

Vernon Hills

Sources: Cineplex Odeon, Sony/Loews.

Most people don't think about who owns the movie theater where the latest blockbuster is playing.

Whether it's Loews/Sony, AMC or Cineplex Odeon has little influence on where a person decides to buy their ticket, as long as the start time is convenient.

But by next April, that may change.

If the proposed merger between Sony Corp. of America and Cineplex Odeon is approved by the Federal Trade Commission and shareholders, moviegoers may have fewer theater owners to sift through. Already the two largest chains of movie houses in the Chicago area, the companies combined will command a 63 percent share of the theater market.

That's a problem for consumers, according to Caroline Shoenberger, the City of Chicago's commissioner of consumer affairs.

"There is a legitimate concern here. Competition keeps prices in check and service at a higher standard," Shoenberger said. A merger of this magnitude is not in the public interest, she said.

"The public should have a choice. …