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IN BRIEF / Entertainment

Small Video Stores Fight Blockbuster in Court

June 13, 2002|Reuters

Mom-and-pop video store operators prepared to battle Blockbuster Inc. in federal court, alleging the video rental giant conspired with movie studios to drive independent stores out of business.

Blockbuster, the world's biggest video rental chain, rejects the plaintiffs' charges that it broke antitrust laws by signing deals with the studios that enabled it to obtain large numbers of new video releases at low prices unavailable to independent retailers.

Harry Munsinger, lead attorney for the three independent video store plaintiffs in the case, said the revenue-sharing deals that Blockbuster signed around 1997 marked the end of free and fair competition in the video rental industry.

Blockbuster, which has about 8,000 stores worldwide, said the deals were normal commercial agreements that laid the foundation for a dramatic turnaround in the Dallas-based company's fortunes.

Jury selection for the trial began in U.S. District Court in San Antonio. The plaintiffs in the case are Lone Star Videotronics of San Antonio, Phoenix-Merchant Investments of Sacramento and the Big Picture Video of Syracuse, N.Y.

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