Alleges False Advertising About Show Start Time

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LOS ANGELES ( -- A class-action suit against Loews Cineplex Entertainment Group, alleging it falsely states a start time for films and instead first
The lawsuit seeks to have theaters publish the time that the actual movie starts.
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shows commercials, threatens to broaden to other theater chains.

Misleading moviegoers
The suit complains that moviegoers are misled by start times and forced to watch pre-film commercials. Douglas Litowitz, the Portland, Ore., lawyer handling the suit, said an 8 p.m. start time for a film may be delayed from one to four minutes by spots, followed by another 14 minutes of movie trailers. However, he said trailers are not at issue.

Instead, Mr. Litowitz cited as offenders Cingular Wireless, Internet movie service Fandango and Coca-Cola Co. "Coca-Cola is the most bothersome," he said. Coca-Cola had no comment.

The suit seeks an injunction forcing Loews to let filmgoers know when onscreen ads will run and when the movie will begin.

Loews said it does not intend to change its format. "This lawsuit is frivolous and completely without merit," a spokesman said. "The moviegoing public has come to expect this type of content prior to viewing the main feature."

Mr. Litowitz said he is "collecting data" against other chains including Regal Entertainment Group, the largest U.S. theater owner. A spokeswoman for Regal CineMedia, Regal's ad unit, said, "We are in the process of converting our theaters to digital distribution," which will "move the non-trailer movie commercials in our non-digital theaters prior to advertised show times."

$250 million business
In-theater advertising is a $250 million a year business. Regal CineMedia, along with Screenvision and National Cinema Network, are the three main in-cinema advertising representatives, representing 77% of all in-cinema advertising. But these groups don't have a say when the advertising runs, according to theater executives. Theater operators make those decisions.

A representative for Screenvision declined to comment. National Cinema Network couldn't be reached.

Still, Mr. Litowitz said ad reps on their Web sites often tout they have "captive" audiences, something that irks him and consumers. "There is no mute button."

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