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United States v. Regal Cinemas, Inc. and Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP; Complaint, Proposed Final Judgment, and Competitive Impact Statement

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Notice is hereby given pursuant to the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1 6(b)-(h), that a Complaint, proposed Final Judgment, Stipulation, and Competitive Impact Statement have been filed with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in States of America v. Regal Cinemas, Inc. and Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP, Civil Action No. 08-00746. On April 29, 2008, the United States filed a Complaint alleging that the proposed acquisition by Regal Cinemas, Inc. of Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP, would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18 by lessening competition for theatrical exhibition of first-run movies in Asheville, Charlotte, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The proposed Final Judgment, filed the same time as the Complaint, requires the defendants to divest first-run, commercial movie theatres, along with certain tangible and intangible assets, in those three geographic regions in order to proceed with the proposed $210 million transaction. A Competitive Impact Statement filed by the United States on April 30, 2008 describes the Complaint, the proposed Final Judgment, the industry, and the remedies available to private litigants who may have been injured by the alleged violation.

Copies of the Complaint, proposed Final Judgment and Competitive Impact Statement are available for inspection at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC in Suite 1010, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20530, and at the Office of the Clerk of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC. Copies of these materials may be obtained from the Antitrust Division upon request and payment of the copying fee set by Department of Justice regulations.

Public comment is invited within 60 days of the date of this notice. Such comments, and responses thereto, will be published in the Federal Register and filed with the Court. Comments should be directed to John R. Read, Chief, Litigation III Section, Suite 4000, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice, 450 Fifth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20530, (telephone: 202 307-0468). At the conclusion of the sixty (60) day comment period, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia may enter the proposed consent decree upon finding that it serves the public interest.

Start Signature

Patricia A. Brink,

Deputy Director of Operations, Antitrust Division.

End Signature

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Regal Cinemas, Inc., and Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP, Defendants.

Case: 1:08-cvOQ746.

Assigned To: Leon, Richard J.

Assign. Date: 4/29/2008.

Description: Antitrust.

Filed:

Complaint

The United States of America, acting under the direction of the Attorney General of the United States, brings this Start Printed Page 28155civil antitrust action to enjoin the proposed merger of Regal Cinemas, Inc. and Consolidated Theatres, GP, and to obtain equitable relief. If the merger is permitted to proceed, it would combine the two leading, and in some cases only, operators of first-run, commercial movie theatres in parts of the metropolitan areas of Charlotte, Raleigh, and Asheville, North Carolina. The merger would substantially lessen competition and tend to create a monopoly in the theatrical exhibition of commercial, first-run movies in the above listed markets in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

I. Jurisdiction and Venue

This action is filed by the United States pursuant to Section 15 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 25, to obtain equitable relief and to prevent a violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18.

2. One defendant operates theatres in this District; the other attracts patrons from and advertises in this District. In addition, the distribution and exhibition of commercial, first-run films is a commercial activity that substantially affects, and is in the flow of, interstate trade and commerce. Defendant's activities in purchasing equipment, services, and supplies as well as licensing films for exhibitors substantially affect interstate commerce. The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action and jurisdiction over the parties pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 22, 25, and 26, and 28 U.S.C. 1331, 1337(a), and 1345.

3. Venue in this District is proper under 15 U.S.C. 22 and 28 U.S.C. 1391(c). In addition, defendants have consented to venue and personal jurisdiction in this judicial district.

II. Defendants and the Proposed Merger

4. Regal Cinemas, Inc. (“Regal”) is a Tennessee corporation with its headquarters in Knoxville. Regal operates more than 6,400 screens at approximately 540 theatres in 39 states and the District of Columbia under the Regal, United Artists, Edwards, and Hoyts names.

5. Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP, is a North Carolina partnership (hereinafter referred to as “Consolidated”). Consolidated operates 400 screens at 28 theatres in Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, with additional theatres projected to open in the next few years, including the Biltmore Grande 15, which is scheduled to open in Asheville, North Carolina in August 2008.

6. On January 14, 2008, Regal and Consolidated signed a purchase and sale agreement. The deal is structured as an asset purchase, with Regal acquiring Consolidated for approximately $210 million.

III. Background of the Movie Industry

7. Theatrical exhibition of feature length motion picture films (“movies”) provides a major source of out-of-home entertainment in the United States. Although they vary, ticket prices for movies tend to be significantly less expensive than many other forms of out-of-home entertainment, particularly live entertainment such as sporting events and live theatre.

8. Viewing movies in the theatre is a very popular pastime. Over 1.4 billion movie tickets were sold in the United States in 2007, with total box office revenue exceeding $9.7 billion.

9. Companies that operate movie theatres are called “exhibitors.” Some exhibitors own a single theatre, whereas others own a circuit of theatres within one or more regions of the United States. Established exhibitors include AMC, Carmike, and Cinemark, as well as Regal and Consolidated.

10. Exhibitors set ticket prices for each theatre based on a number of factors, including the competitive situation facing each theatre, the age of the theatres, the prices of nearby, comparable theatres, the population demographics and density surrounding the theatre, and the number and type of amenities each theatre offers, such as stadium seating.

IV. Relevant Market

A. Product Market

11. Movies are a unique form of entertainment. The experience of viewing a movie in a theatre is an inherently different experience from live entertainment (e.g., a stage production), a sporting event, or viewing a movie in the home (e.g, on a DVD or via pay-per-view).

12. Typically, viewing a movie at home lacks several characteristics of viewing a movie in a theatre, including the size of screen, the sophistication of sound systems, and the social experience of viewing a movie with other patrons. Additionally, the most popular, newly released or “first-run” movies are not available for home viewing. Movies are considered to be in their “first-run” during the four to five weeks following initial release in a given locality. If successful, a movie may be exhibited at other theatres after the first run as part of a second or subsequent run (often called a sub-run).

13. Reflecting the significant differences of viewing a movie in a theatre, ticket prices for movies are generally very different from prices for other forms of entertainment: Live entertainment is typically significantly more expensive than a movie ticket, whereas renting a DVD for home viewing is usually significantly cheaper than viewing a movie in a theatre. Going to the movies is a different experience from other forms of entertainment, and a small but significant post-acquisition increase in ticket prices, or reduction in discounts, for first-run commercial movies would not cause a sufficient number of customers to shift to other forms of entertainment to make such a price increase unprofitable.

14. Reflecting the significant difference between viewing a newly released, first-run movie and an older sub-run movie, tickets at theatres exhibiting first-run movies usually cost significantly more than tickets at sub-run theatres. Movies exhibited at sub-run theatres are no longer new releases, and moviegoers generally do not regard sub-run movies as an adequate substitute for first-run movies and a small but significant post-acquisition increase in ticket prices, or reduction in discounts, for first-run commercial movies would not cause a sufficient number of customers to switch to theatres exhibiting sub-run movies to make such a price increase unprofitable.

15. Art movies and foreign language movies are also not substitutes for commercial, first-run movies. Although art and foreign language movies appeal to some viewers of commercial movies, potential audience and demand conditions are quite distinct. For example, art movies tend to appeal more universally to mature audiences and art movie patrons tend to purchase fewer concessions. Exhibitors consider art theatre operations as distinct from the operations of theatres that exhibit commercial movies. Theatres that primarily exhibit art movies often contain auditoriums with fewer seats than theatres that primarily play commercial movies. Typically, art movies are released less widely than commercial movies. A small but significant post-acquisition increase in ticket prices, or reduction in discounts, for first-run commercial movies would not cause a sufficient number of customers to switch to theatres exhibiting art movies to make such a price increase unprofitable.

16. Similarly, foreign language movies do not widely appeal to U.S. audiences. As a result, moviegoers do not regard foreign language movies as adequate substitutes for first-run, commercial Start Printed Page 28156movies. A small but significant post-acquisition increase in ticket prices, or reduction in discounts, for first-run movies would not cause a sufficient number of customers to switch to theatres exhibiting foreign language movies to make such a price increase unprofitable.

17. The relevant product market within which to assess the competitive effects of this merger is the exhibition of first-run, commercial movies.

B. Geographic Markets

18. Data show that moviegoers typically are not willing to travel very far from their homes to attend a movie. As a result, geographic markets for the exhibition of first-run, commercial movies are relatively local.

Charlotte, North Carolina Area

19. Regal and Consolidated account for the vast majority of first-run movie tickets sold in southern Charlotte, North Carolina (“Southern Charlotte”), an area which encompasses Consolidated's Philips 10 theatre, Consolidated's Arboretum 12, Regal's Crown Point 12 and Regal's Stonecrest 22 theatre. In this area, the only other theatres showing first-run, commercial movies are an independent five-plex stadium theatre and the AMC Carolina Pavilion 22, a stadium theatre.

20. Moviegoers who reside in Southern Charlotte are reluctant to travel significant distances out of that area to attend a movie except in unusual circumstances. A small but significant increase in the price of movie tickets in Southern Charlotte would not cause a sufficient number of moviegoers to travel out of Southern Charlotte to make the increase unprofitable. Southern Charlotte constitutes a relevant geographic market in which to assess the competitive effects of this merger.

Raleigh, North Carolina Area

21. Regal and Consolidated account for the vast majority of first-run movie tickets sold in Northern Raleigh, North Carolina (“Northern Raleigh”), which encompasses Regal's Brier Creek 14, Regal's North Hills 14, and Consolidated's Raleigh Grand. The only other theatres showing first-run, commercial movies in the Northern Raleigh area are the sloped-floor, six screen Six Forks and the 15-screen Carmike theatre with stadium seating.

22. Moviegoers who reside in Northern Raleigh are reluctant to travel significant distances out of their area to attend a movie except in unusual circumstances. A small but significant increase in the price of movie tickets in Northern Raleigh would not cause a sufficient number of moviegoers to travel out of Northern Raleigh to make the increase unprofitable. Northern Raleigh constitutes a relevant geographic market in which to assess the competitive effects of this merger.

23. Regal and Consolidated account for all of the first-run movie tickets sold in the suburb of Gamer to the south of Raleigh, North Carolina (“Southern Raleigh”), which encompasses Regal's Garner Towne Square 10 and Consolidated's White Oak 14. There are no other theatres showing first-run, commercial movies in Southern Raleigh.

24. Moviegoers who reside in Southern Raleigh are reluctant to travel significant distances out of their area to attend a movie except in unusual circumstances. A small but significant increase in the price of movie tickets in Southern Raleigh would not cause a sufficient number of moviegoers to travel out of Southern Raleigh to make the increase unprofitable. Southern Raleigh constitutes a relevant geographic market in which to assess the competitive effects of this merger.

Asheville, North Carolina Area

25. After the completion of Consolidated's Biltmore Grande 15 around August 2008, Regal and Consolidated will likely account for the vast majority of first-run movie tickets sold in the Asheville, North Carolina area (“Asheville”), which encompasses the area around Regal's Hollywood 14 and the developing site of Consolidated's Biltmore Grande 15. There are only two other non-Regal theatres showing first-run, commercial movies in Asheville—a Carmike theatre with 10 screens and a Fine Arts theatre with two screens.

26. Moviegoers in Asheville are reluctant to travel significant distances out of that area to attend a movie except in unusual circumstances. A small but significant increase in the price of movie tickets in Asheville would not cause a sufficient number of moviegoers to travel out of Asheville to make the increase unprofitable. Asheville constitutes a relevant geographic market in which to assess the competitive effects of this merger.

27. The exhibition of first-run, commercial movies in Southern Charlotte, Northern Raleigh, Southern Raleigh and Asheville each constitutes a relevant market (i.e., a line of commerce and a section of the country) within the meaning of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

V. Competitive Effects

28. Exhibitors compete on multiple dimensions to attract moviegoers to their theatres over the theatres of their rivals. They compete over the quality of the viewing experience. They compete to offer the most sophisticated sound systems, best picture clarity, nicest seats with best views, and cleanest floors and lobbies for moviegoers. And, to gain market share, exhibitors seek to license the first-run movies that are likely to attract the largest numbers of moviegoers. Exhibitors also compete on price, knowing that if they charge too much (or do not offer sufficient discounted tickets for matinees, seniors, children, etc.), moviegoers will begin to frequent their rivals.

29. In the geographic markets of Southern Charlotte, Northern and Southern Raleigh, and Asheville, Regal and Consolidated compete head-to-head for moviegoers. These geographic markets are very concentrated and in each market, Regal and Consolidated are the other's most significant competitor given their close proximity to one another and to local moviegoers, and from the perspective of such moviegoers, the relative inferiority in terms of location, size or quality of other theatres in the geographic markets. Their rivalry spurs each to improve the quality of the viewing experience and keeps prices in check.

30. In Southern Charlotte, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of four of the six first-run, commercial theatres in that area, with 56 out of 83 total screens and a 75% share of 2007 box office revenues, which totaled approximately $17.1 million. Using a measure of market concentration called the Herfindahl-Hirschman index (“HHI”), explained in Appendix A, the merger would yield a post-merger HHI of approximately 6,058, representing an increase of roughly 2,535 points.

31. In Northern Raleigh, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of three of the five first-run, commercial theatres in that area, with 44 of 65 total screens and 79% of 2007 box office revenues, which totaled approximately $11.6 million. The merger would yield a post-merger HHI of roughly 6,523, representing an increase of around 2,315 points.

32. In Southern Raleigh, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of the only two theatres in this area. Therefore, the market share of the combined entity would be 100% of screens and 100% of 2007 box office revenues, which totaled $3.5 million. The merger would yield the highest post-merger HHI number possible—10,000, representing an increase of 3,167 points. Start Printed Page 28157

33. In Asheville, after the completion of the Biltmore Grand 15, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of four of the six first-run, commercial theatres with 41 of 53 total screens. As measured by total screens only (since Consolidated does not yet have box office revenues in Asheville), the combined entity would have a market share of approximately 77% in Asheville. The merger would yield a post-merger HHI of roughly 6,355, representing an increase of 2,777 points.

Today, were Regal or Consolidated to increase ticket prices in any of the four geographic markets at issue and the others were not to follow, the exhibitor that increased price would likely suffer financially as a substantial number of its patrons would patronize the other exhibitor. After the merger, the newly combined entity would re-capture such losses, making price increases profitable that would have been unprofitable pre-merger. Thus, the merger is likely to lead to higher ticket prices for moviegoers, which could take the form of a higher adult evening ticket price or reduced discounting, e.g., for matinees, children, seniors, and students.

35. The proposed merger would also eliminate competition between Regal and Consolidated over the quality of the viewing experience in each of the geographic markets at issue. If no longer required to compete, Regal and Consolidated would have reduced incentives to maintain, upgrade, and renovate their theatres in the relevant markets, to improve those theatres' amenities and services, and to license the highest revenue movies, thus reducing the quality of the viewing experience for a moviegoer.

36. The presence of the other theatres offering first-run, commercial movies in certain of the relevant geographic markets would be insufficient to replace the competition lost due to the merger, and thus render unprofitable post-merger increases in ticket prices or decreases in quality by the newly merged entity. For various reasons, the other theatres in the relevant geographic markets offer less attractive options for the moviegoers that are served by the Regal and Consolidated theatres. For example, they are located further away from these moviegoers than are the Regal and Consolidated theatres, they are relatively smaller size or have fewer screens than the Regal and Consolidated theatres, or they offer a lower quality viewing experience than do the Regal and Consolidated theatres.

VI. Entry

37. The entry of a first-run, commercial movie theatre is unlikely in all of the relevant markets. Exhibitors are reluctant to locate new theatres near existing theatres unless the population density and demographics make new entry viable or the existing theatres do not have stadium seating. That is not the case here. Over the next two years, the demand for more movie theatres in the areas at issue is not likely to support entry of a new theatre. And all of these markets have or will soon have theatres with stadium seating. Thus, no new first-run, commercial theatres with the capability to reduce significantly the newly merged entity's market power are likely to open within the next two years in Southern Charlotte, Northern Raleigh, Southern Raleigh, or Asheville in response to an increase in movie ticket prices or a decline in theatre quality.

VII. Violation Alleged

38. The United States hereby reincorporates paragraphs 1 through 37.

39. The effect of the proposed merger would be to lessen competition substantially in Southern Charlotte, Northern Raleigh, Southern Raleigh and Asheville in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

40. The transaction would likely have the following effects, among others: (a) Prices for first-run, commercial movie tickets would likely increase to levels above those that would prevail absent the merger, and (b) quality of theatres and the theatre viewing experience in the geographic area would likely decrease absent the merger.

VIII. Requested Relief

41. The plaintiffs request: (a) Adjudication that the proposed merger would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act; (b) permanent injunctive relief to prevent the consummation of the proposed merger and to prevent the defendants from entering into or carrying out any agreement, understanding or plan, the effect of which would be to combine the businesses or assets of defendants; (c) an award of the plaintiff of its costs in this action; and (d) such other relief as is proper.

Dated: April 29, 2008.

For Plaintiff United States of America.

David L. Meyer (DC Bar No. 414420), Acting Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division.

Patricia A. Brink, Deputy Director of Operations.

John R. Read, Chief, Litigation III.

Nina B. Hale, Assistant Chief, Litigation III.

Gregg I. Malawer (DC Bar No. 481685), Jennifer Wamsley (DC Bar No. 486540), Anne Newton Mcfadden.

Attorneys for the United States, United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, 450 5th Street, NW., Suite 4000, Washington, DC 20530.

Exhibit A—Definition of HHI and Calculations for Market

“HHI” means the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, a commonly accepted measure of market concentration. It is calculated by squaring the market share of each firm competing in the market and then summing the resulting numbers. For example, for a market consisting of four firms with shares of thirty, thirty, twenty and twenty percent, the HHI is 2600 (302 + 302 + 202 + 202 = 2600). The HHI takes into account the relative size and distribution of the firms in a market and approaches zero when a market consists of a large number of firms of relatively equal size. The HHI increases both as the number of firms in the market decreases and as the disparity in size between those firms increases.

Markets in which the HHI is between 1000 and 1800 points are considered to be moderately concentrated, and those in which the HHI is in excess of 1800 points are considered to be concentrated. Transactions that increase the HHI by more than 100 points in concentrated markets presumptively raise antitrust concerns under the Merger Guidelines. See Merger Guidelines § 1.51.

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Regal Cinemas, Inc. and Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP, Defendants.

Civil Action No:

Judge:

Filed:

Final Judgment

Whereas, Plaintiff, United States of America filed its Complaint on April 29, 2008, the United States and Defendants, Regal Cinemas, Inc. (“Regal”) and Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP (“Consolidated”), by their respective attorneys, have consented to the entry of this Final Judgment without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and without this Final Judgment constituting any evidence against or admission by any party regarding any issue of fact or law;

And whereas, Defendants agree to be bound by the provisions of this Final Judgment pending its approval by the Court;

And whereas, the essence of this Final Judgment is the prompt and certain divestiture of certain rights or assets by the Defendants to assure that competition is not substantially lessened; Start Printed Page 28158

And whereas, the United States requires Defendants to make certain divestitures for the purpose of remedying the loss of competition alleged in the Complaint;

And whereas, Defendants have represented to the United States that the divestitures required below can and will be made and that Defendants will later raise no claim of hardship or difficulty as grounds for asking the Court to modify any of the divestiture provisions contained below;

Now therefore, before any testimony is taken, without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law, and upon consent of the parties, it is ordered. Adjudged and decreed:

I. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of and each of the parties to this action. The Complaint states a claim upon which relief may he granted against Defendants under Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. 18).

II. Definitions

As used in this Final Judgment:

A. “Acquirer” or “Acquirers” means the entity or entities to whom Defendants divest the Theatre Assets.

B. “Regal” means Defendant Regal Cinemas Eric., a Tennessee corporation with its headquarters in Knoxville. Tennessee, its successors and assigns, and its subsidiaries, divisions, groups, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures, and their directors, officers, managers, agents, and employees.

C. “Consolidated” means defendant Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP, a North Carolina Partnership, its successors and assigns, and its subsidiaries, divisions, groups, affiliates, partnerships and joint ventures, and their directors, officers, managers, agents, and employees.

D. “Landlord Consent” means any contractual approval or consent that the landlord or owner of one or more of the Theatre Assets, or the property on which one or more of the Theatre Assets is situated, must grant prior to the transfer of one of the Theatre Assets to an Acquirer.

E. “Theatre Assets” means the first-run, commercial motion picture theatre businesses operated by Regal or Consolidated, under the following names and at the following locations:

Theatre nameTheatre address
i. Crown Point 129630 Monroe Road, Charlotte, NC 28270.
ii. Raleigh Grand 164840 Grove Barton Road, Raleigh, NC 27613.
iii. Town Square 102600 Timber Dr., Garner, NC 27529.
iv. Hollywood 141640 Hendersonville Rd, Asheville, NC 28803.

The term “Theatre Assets” includes:

1. All tangible assets that comprise the first-run, commercial motion picture theatre business including all equipment, fixed assets and fixtures, personal property, inventory, office furniture, materials, supplies, and other tangible property and all assets used in connection with the Theatre Assets: All licenses, permits and authorizations issued by any governmental organization relating to the Theatre Assets; all contracts, teaming arrangements, agreements, leases, commitments, certifications, and understandings, relating to the Theatre Assets, including supply agreements; all customer lists, contracts, accounts, and credit records; all repair and performance records and all other records relating to the Theatre Assets;

2. All intangible assets used in the development, production, servicing and sale of Theatre Assets, including, but not limited to all patents, licenses and sublicenses, intellectual property, technical information, computer software (except Defendants' proprietary software) and related documentation, know how, trade secrets, drawings, blueprints, designs, design protocols, specifications for materials, specifications for parts and devices, safety procedures for the handling of materials and substances, quality assurance and control procedures, design tools and simulation capability, all manuals and technical information Defendants provide to their own employees, customers, suppliers, agents or licensees, and all research data concerning historic and current research and development efforts relating to the Theatre Assets, provided, however, that this term does not include any right to use or interests in defendants' trademarks, trade names, service marks or service names, or copyrighted advertising materials.

III. Applicability

A. This Final Judgment applies to Regal and Consolidated, as defined above, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them who receive actual notice of this Final Judgment by personal service or otherwise.

B. If, prior to complying with Section IV and V of this Final Judgment, Defendants sell or otherwise dispose of all or substantially all of their assets or of lesser business units that include the Theatre Assets, they shall require the purchaser to be bound by the provisions of this Final Judgment Defendants need not obtain such an agreement from the acquirers of the assets divested pursuant to this Final Judgment.

IV. Divestitures

A. Defendants are ordered and directed, within ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of the Complaint in this matter, or five (5) calendar days after notice of the entry of this Final Judgment by the Court, whichever is later, to divest the Theatre Assets in a manner consistent with this Final Judgment to an Acquirer(s) acceptable to the United States in its sole discretion. The United States, in its sole discretion, may agree to one or more extensions of this time period not to exceed ninety (90) calendar days in total, and shall notify the Court in such circumstances. Defendants agree to use their best efforts to divest the Theatre Assets as expeditiously as possible.

B. In accomplishing the divestitures ordered by this Final Judgment, Defendants promptly shall make known, by usual and customary means, the availability of the Theatre Assets. Defendants shall inform any person making inquiry regarding a possible purchase of the Theatre Assets that they are being divested pursuant to this Final Judgment and provide that person with a copy of this Final Judgment. Defendants shall offer to furnish to all prospective Acquirers, subject to customary confidentiality assurances, all information and documents relating to the Theatre Assets customarily provided in a due diligence process except such information or documents subject to the attorney-client privilege or work-product doctrine. Defendants shall make available such information to the United States at the same time that such information is made available to any other person.

C. Defendants shall provide the Acquirers and the United States information relating to the personnel involved in the operation of the Theatre Assets to enable the Acquirers to make offers of employment. Defendants will not interfere with any negotiations by the Acquirers to employ any Defendant employee whose primary responsibility is the operation of the Theatre Assets.

D. Defendants shall permit prospective Acquirers of the Theatre Assets to have reasonable access to personnel and to make inspections of Start Printed Page 28159the physical facilities of the Theatre Assets; access to any and all environmental, zoning, and other permit documents and information; and access to any and all financial, operational, or other documents and information customarily provided as part of a due diligence process.

E. Defendants shall warrant to all Acquirers of the Theatre Assets that each asset will be operational on the date of sale.

F. Defendants shall not take any action that will impede in any way the permitting, operation. or divestitures of the Theatre Assets. At the option of the Acquirers, Defendants shall enter into an agreement for products and services, such as computer support services, that are reasonably necessary for the Acquirer(s) to effectively operate the Theatre Assets during a transition period. The terms and conditions of any contractual arrangements meant to satisfy this provision must be commercially reasonable for those products and services for which the agreement is entered and shall remain in effect for no more than three months, absent approval of the United States, in its sole discretion.

G. Defendants shall warrant to the Acquirers that there are no material defects in the environmental, zoning or other permits pertaining to the operation of each asset, and that following the sale of the Theatre Assets, Defendants will not undertake, directly or indirectly, any challenges to the environmental, zoning, or other permits relating to the operation of the Theatre Assets.

H. Unless the United States otherwise consents in writing, the divestitures made pursuant to Section IV, or by trustee appointed pursuant to Section V. of this Final Judgment, shall include the entire Theatre Assets, and shall be accomplished in such a way as to satisfy the United States, in its sole discretion that the Theatre Assets can and will be used by the Acquirers as part of a viable, ongoing business of first-run, commercial motion picture theatres. Divestitures of the Theatre Assets may be made to one or more Acquirers, provided that in each instance it is demonstrated to the sole satisfaction of the United States that the Theatre Assets will remain viable and the divestitures of such assets will remedy the competitive harm alleged in the Complaint. The divestitures, whether pursuant to Section IV or Section V of this Final Judgment,

(1) Shall be made to an Acquirer(s) that, in the United States's sole judgment, has the intent and capability (including the necessary managerial, operational, technical and financial capability) of competing effectively in the business of first-run, commercial motion picture theatres; and

(2) shall be accomplished so as to satisfy the United States, in its sole discretion, that none of the terms of any agreement between an Acquirer(s) and Defendants give Defendants the ability unreasonably to raise the Acquirer's costs, to lower the Acquirer's efficiency, or otherwise to interfere in the ability of the Acquirer(s) to compete effectively.

V. Appointment of Trustee

A. If Defendants have not divested the Theatre Assets within the time period specified in Section IV(A), Defendants shall notify the United States of that fact in writing. Upon application of the United States, the Court shall appoint a trustee selected by the United States and approved by the Court to effect the divestitures of the Theatre Assets.

B. After the appointment of a trustee becomes effective, only the trustee shall have the right to sell the Theatre Assets. The trustee shall have the power and authority to accomplish the divestitures to an Acquirer(s) acceptable to the United States at such price and on such terms as are then obtainable upon reasonable effort by the trustee, subject to the provisions of Sections IV, V, VI, and VII of this Final Judgment, and shall have such other powers as this Court deems appropriate. Subject to Section V(D) of this Final Judgment, the trustee may hire at the cost and expense of Defendants any investment bankers, attorneys, or other agents, who shall be solely accountable to the trustee, reasonably necessary in the trustee's judgment to assist in the divestiture.

C. Defendants shall not object to a sale by the trustee on any ground other than the trustee's malfeasance. Any such objections by Defendants must be conveyed in writing to the United States and the trustee within ten (10) calendar days after the trustee has provided the notice required under Section VII.

D. The trustee shall serve at the cost and expense of Defendants, on such terms and conditions as the United States approves, and shall account for all monies derived from the sale of the assets sold by the trustee and all costs and expenses so incurred. After approval by the Court of the trustee's accounting, including fees for its services and those of any professionals and agents retained by the trustee, all remaining money shall be paid to Defendants and the trust shall then be terminated. The compensation of the trustee and any professionals and agents retained by the trustee shall be reasonable in light of the value of the Theatre Assets and based on a fee arrangement providing the trustee with an incentive based on the price and terms of the divestitures and the speed with which it is accomplished, but timeliness is paramount.

E. Defendants shall use their best efforts to assist the trustee in accomplishing the required divestitures. The trustee and any consultants, accountants, attorneys, and other persons retained by the trustee shall have full and complete access to the personnel, books, records, and facilities of the business to be divested, and Defendants shall develop financial and other information relevant to such business as the trustee may reasonably request, subject to reasonable protection for trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information. Defendants shall take no action to interfere with or to impede the trustee's accomplishment of the divestitures.

F. After its appointment, the trustee shall file monthly reports with the United States and the Court setting forth the trustee's efforts to accomplish the divestitures ordered under this Final Judgment. To the extent such reports contain information that the trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. Such reports shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who, during the preceding month, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring, any interest in the Theatre Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person. The trustee shall maintain full records of all efforts made to divest the Theatre Assets.

G. If the trustee has not accomplished the divestitures ordered under this Final Judgment within six months after its appointment, the trustee shall promptly file with the Court a report setting forth (1) the trustee's efforts to accomplish the required divestitures, (2) the reasons, in the trustee's judgment, why the required divestitures have not been accomplished, and (3) the trustee's recommendations. To the extent such reports contain information that the trustee deems confidential, such reports shall not be filed in the public docket of the Court. The trustee shall at the same time furnish such report to the United States which shall have the right to make additional recommendations consistent with the purpose of the trust. The Court thereafter shall enter such orders as it shall deem appropriate to carry out the purpose of the Final Start Printed Page 28160Judgment, which may, if necessary, include extending the trust and the term of the trustee's appointment by a period requested by the United States.

VI. Landlord Consent

A. If Defendants are unable to effect the divestitures required herein due to the inability to obtain the Landlord Consent for any of the Theatre Assets, Defendants shall divest alternative Theatre Assets that compete effectively with the theatre for which the Landlord Consent was not obtained. The United States shall, in its sole discretion, determine whether such theatre competes effectively with the theatre for which landlord consent was not obtained.

B. Within five (5) business days following a determination that Landlord Consent cannot be obtained for one of the Theatre Assets, Defendants shall notify the United States and propose an alternative divestiture pursuant to Section VI(A). The United States shall have then ten (10) business days in which to determine whether such theatre is a suitable alternative pursuant to Section VI(A). If the Defendants' selection is deemed not to be a suitable alternative, the United States shall in its sole discretion select the theatre to be divested.

C. If the trustee is responsible for effecting the divestitures, it shall notify both the United States and the Defendants within five (5) business days following a determination that Landlord Consent can not be obtained for one of the Theatre Assets. Defendants shall thereafter have five (5) business days to propose an alternative divestiture pursuant to Section VI(a). The United States shall have then ten (10) business days in which to determine whether such theatre is a suitable alternative pursuant to Section VI(A). If the Defendants' selection is deemed not to be a suitable competitive alternative, the United States shall in its sole discretion select the theatre to be divested.

VII. Notice of Proposed Divestitures

A. Within two (2) business days following execution of a definitive divestiture agreement, Defendants or the trustee, whichever is then responsible for effecting the divestitures required herein, shall notify the United States of any proposed divestitures required by Sections IV or V of this Final Judgment. If the trustee is responsible, it shall similarly notify Defendants. The notice shall set forth the details of the proposed divestitures and list the name, address, and telephone number of each person not previously identified who offered or expressed an interest in or desire to acquire any ownership interest in the Theatre Assets, together with full details of the same.

B. Within fifteen (15) calendar days of receipt by the United States of such notice, the United States may request from Defendants, the proposed Acquirer(s), any other third party, or the trustee, if applicable, additional information concerning the proposed divestitures, the proposed Acquirer(s), and any other potential Acquirer. Defendants and the trustee shall furnish any additional information requested within fifteen (15) calendar days of the receipt of the request, unless the parties shall otherwise agree.

C. Within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of the notice or within twenty (20) calendar days after the United States has been provided the additional information requested from Defendants, the proposed Acquirer(s), any third party, and the trustee, whichever is later, the United States shall provide written notice to Defendants and the trustee, if there is one, stating whether or not it objects to the proposed divestitures. If the United States provides written notice that it does not object, the divestitures may be consummated, subject only to Defendants' limited right to object to the sale under Section V(C) of this Final Judgment. Absent written notice that the United States does not object to the proposed Acquirer(s) or upon objection by the United States, a divestiture proposed under Section IV or Section V shall not be consummated. Upon objection by Defendants under Section V(C), a divestiture proposed under Section V shall not be consummated unless approved by the Court.

VIII. Financing

Defendants shall not finance all or any part of any purchase made pursuant to Section IV or V of this Final Judgment.

IX. Hold Separate

Until the divestitures required by this Final Judgment have been accomplished, Defendants shall take all steps necessary to comply with the Hold Separate Stipulation and Order entered by this Court. Defendants shall take no action that would jeopardize the divestitures ordered by this Court.

X. Affidavits

A. Within twenty (20) calendar days of the filing of the Complaint in this matter, and every thirty (30) calendar days thereafter until the divestitures have been completed under Sections IV or V, Defendants shall deliver to the United States an affidavit as to the fact and manner of its compliance with Section IV or V of this Final Judgment. Each such affidavit shall include the name, address, and telephone number of each person who, during the preceding thirty (30) calendar days, made an offer to acquire, expressed an interest in acquiring, entered into negotiations to acquire, or was contacted or made an inquiry about acquiring, any interest in the Theatre Assets, and shall describe in detail each contact with any such person during that period. Each such affidavit shall also include a description of the efforts Defendants have taken to solicit buyers for the Theatre Assets, and to provide required information to prospective purchasers, including the limitations, if any, on such information. Assuming the information set forth in the affidavit is true and complete, any objection by the United States to information provided by defendants, including limitation on information, shall be made within fourteen (14) calendar days of receipt of such affidavit.

B. Within twenty (20) calendar days of the filing of the Complaint in this matter, defendants shall deliver to the United States an affidavit that describes in reasonable detail all actions defendants have taken and all steps defendants have implemented on an ongoing basis to comply with Section IX of this Final Judgment. Defendants shall deliver to the United States an affidavit describing any changes to the efforts and actions outlined in defendants' earlier affidavits filed pursuant to this section within fifteen (15) calendar days after the change is implemented.

C. Defendants shall keep all records of all efforts made to preserve and divest the Theatre Assets until one year after such divestitures have been completed.

XI. Compliance Inspection

A. For the purposes of determining or securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or of determining whether the Final Judgment should be modified or vacated, and subject to any legally recognized privilege, from time to time duly authorized representatives of the United States Department of Justice, including consultants and other persons retained by the United States, shall, upon written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, and on reasonable notice to defendants, be permitted:

(1) Access during defendants' office hours to inspect and copy, or at the option of the United States, to require defendants to provide hard copy or electronic copies of all books, ledgers, accounts, records, data, and documents Start Printed Page 28161in the possession, custody, or control of defendants, relating to any matters contained in this Final Judgment; and

(2) to interview, either informally or on the record defendants' officers, employees, or agents, who may have their individual counsel present, regarding such matters. The interviews shall be subject to the reasonable convenience of the interviewee and without restraint or interference by defendants.

B. Upon the written request of an authorized representative of the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division, defendants shall submit written reports or response to written interrogatories, under oath if requested, relating to any of the matters contained in this Final Judgment as may be requested.

C. No information or documents obtained by the means provided in this section shall be divulged by the United States, to any person other than an authorized representative of the executive branch of the United States, except in the course of legal proceedings to which the United States is a party (including grand jury proceedings), or for the purpose of securing compliance with this Final Judgment, or as otherwise required by law.

D. If at the time information or documents are furnished by defendants to the United States, defendants represent and identify in writing the material in any such information or documents to which a claim of protection may be asserted under Rule 26(c)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and defendants mark each pertinent page of such material, “Subject to claim of protection under Rule 26(c)(7) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,” then the United States shall give defendants ten (10) calendar days notice prior to divulging such material in any legal proceeding (other than a grand jury proceeding).

XII. Notification

Unless such transaction is otherwise subject to the reporting and waiting period requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18a (the “HSR Act”), defendants, without providing advance notification to the Department of Justice, shall not directly or indirectly acquire any assets of or any interest, including any financial, security, loan, equity or management interest, in the business of first-run, commercial theatres in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; Wake County, North Carolina; and Buncombe County, North Carolina during a ten-year period. This notification requirement shall apply only to the acquisition of any assets or any interest in the business of first-run, commercial motion picture theatres at the time of the acquisition and shall not be construed to require notification of acquisition of interest in new theatre developments or of assets not being operated as first-run commercial motion picture theatre businesses, provided, that this notification requirement shall apply to first-run, commercial theatres under construction at the time of the entering of this Final Judgment.

Such notification shall be provided to the Department of Justice in the same format as, and per the instructions relating to the Notification and Report Form set forth in the Appendix to Part 803 of Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations as amended, except that the information requested iii Items 5 through 9 of the instructions must be provided only about first-run, commercial theatres. Notification shall be provided at least thirty (30) calendar days prior to acquiring any such interest, and shall include, beyond what may be required by the applicable instructions, the names of the principal representatives of the parties to the agreement who negotiated the agreement, and any management or strategic plans discussing the proposed transaction. If within the 30-day period after notification, representatives of the Antitrust Division make a written request for additional information, defendants shall not consummate the proposed transaction or agreement until thirty (30) days after submitting all such additional information. Early termination of the waiting periods in this paragraph may be requested and, where appropriate, granted in the same manner as is applicable under the requirements and provisions of the HSR Act and rules promulgated thereunder. This Section shall be broadly construed and any ambiguity or uncertainty regarding the filing of notice under this Section shall be resolved in favor of filing notice.

XIII. No Reacquisition

Defendants may not reacquire any part of the theatre assets divested under this Final Judgment during the term of this Final Judgment.

XIV. Retention of Jurisdiction

This Court retains jurisdiction to enable any party to this Final Judgment to apply to this Court at any time for further orders and directions as may be necessary or appropriate to carry out or construe this Final Judgment, to modify any of its provisions, to enforce compliance, and to punish violations of its provisions.

XV. Expiration of Final Judgment

Unless this Court grants an extension, this Final Judgment shall expire ten years from the date of its entry.

XVI. Public Interest Determination

Entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest. The parties have complied with the requirements of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16, including making copies available to the public of this Final Judgment, the Competitive Impact Statement, and any comments thereon and the United States's responses to comments. Based upon the record before the Court, which includes the Competitive Impact Statement and any comments and response to comments filed with the Court, entry of this Final Judgment is in the public interest.

Date:

Court approval subject to procedures of Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act, 15 U.S.C. 16.

United States District Judge.

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Regal Cinemas, Inc., and Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP, Defendants.

Civil Action No: 1:08-cv-00746.

Judge: Leon, Richard J.

Filed: April 30, 2008.

Competitive Impact Statement

Plaintiff, the United States of America (“United States”), pursuant to Section 2(b) of the Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act (“APPA” or “Tunney Act”), 15 U.S.C. 16(b)-(h), files this Competitive Impact Statement relating to the proposed Final Judgment submitted for entry in this civil antitrust proceeding.

I. Nature and Purpose of the Proceeding

On January 14, 2008, Defendant Regal Cinemas, Inc. (“Regal”) agreed to acquire Defendant Consolidated Theatres Holdings, GP (“Consolidated”) for approximately $210 million. The United States filed a civil antitrust complaint on April 29, 2008, seeking to enjoin the proposed acquisition and to obtain equitable relief. The Complaint alleges that the acquisition, if permitted to proceed, would combine the two leading, and in some cases, only operators of first-run, commercial movie theatres in parts of the metropolitan areas of Charlotte, Raleigh, and Asheville, North Carolina The likely effect of this acquisition would be to lessen competition substantially for first-run commercial motion picture Start Printed Page 28162exhibition in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 18.

At the same time the Complaint was filed, the United States also filed a Hold Separate Stipulation and Order (“Hold Separate”) and proposed Final Judgment, which are designed to eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the acquisition. Under the proposed Final Judgment, which is explained more fully below, Regal and Consolidated are required to divest four theatres located in Charlotte, Raleigh and Asheville to acquirers acceptable to the United States.

Under the terms of the Hold Separate, Defendants will take certain steps to ensure that four theatres to be divested will be maintained and operated as economically viable and ongoing business concerns.

The United States and Defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered after compliance with the APPA. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment would terminate this action, except that the Court would retain jurisdiction to construe, modify, or enforce the provisions of the proposed Final Judgment and to punish violations thereof.

II. Description of the Events Giving Rise to the Alleged Violation

A. The Defendants and the Proposed Transaction

Regal, a Tennessee corporation, is currently the nation's largest movie theatre operator. Regal operates more than 6,400 screens at approximately 540 theatres in 39 states and the District of Columbia under the Regal, United Artists, Edwards, and Hoyts names, with revenues of approximately $2.6 billion in 2007.

Consolidated, a North Carolina partnership, operates 400 screens at 28 theatres in Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, with additional theatres projected to open in the next few years, including the Biltmore Grande 15 in Asheville, which will open about August 2008. For fiscal year 2007, Consolidated generated revenues of approximately $144 million.

On January 14, 2008, Regal and Consolidated signed a purchase and sale agreement. The deal is structured as an asset purchase, with Regal acquiring Consolidated for approximately $210 million.

B. The Competitive Effects of the Transaction on the Exhibition of First-Run, Commercial Movies

The Complaint alleges that the theatrical exhibition of first-run, commercial films in each of Southern Charlotte, Northern and Southern Raleigh, and Asheville, North Carolina constitutes a line of commerce and a relevant market for antitrust purposes.

1. The Relevant Product and Geographic Markets

The Complaint alleges that the relevant product market within which to assess the competitive effects of this merger is the exhibition of first-run, commercial movies. According to the Complaint, the experience of viewing a film in a theatre is an inherently different experience from other forms of entertainment, such as a live show, a sporting event, or viewing a movie in the home (e.g., on a DVD or via pay-per-view). Reflecting the significant differences of viewing a movie in a theatre, ticket prices for movies are generally very different from prices for other forms of entertainment: Live entertainment is typically significantly more expensive than a movie ticket, whereas renting a DVD for home viewing is usually significantly cheaper than viewing a movie in a theatre. The Complaint also alleges that a small but significant post-acquisition increase in ticket prices, or reduction in discounts, for first-run commercial movies would not cause a sufficient number of customers to shift to other forms of entertainment to make such a price increase unprofitable.

The Complaint alleges that moviegoers generally do not regard sub-run movies, art movies, or foreign language movies as an adequate substitute for first-run movies and would not switch to sub-run movies, art movies, or foreign language movies if the price of viewing first-run movies was increased by a small but significant amount. Although sub-run, art and foreign language movies appeal to some viewers of commercial movies, potential audience and demand conditions are quite distinct. Exhibitors consider sub-run, art, and foreign language theatre operations as distinct from the operations of theatres that exhibit commercial movies. A small but significant post-acquisition increase in ticket prices, or reduction in discounts, for first-run commercial movies would not cause a sufficient number of customers to switch to theatres exhibiting sub-run, art, or foreign language movies to make such a price increase unprofitable. The Complaint alleges that the relevant geographic markets in which to measure the competitive effects of this merger are the parts of metropolitan areas identified as Southern Charlotte, Northern Raleigh, Southern Raleigh and Asheville. According to the Complaint, the Southern Charlotte area encompasses Consolidated's Philips Place 10 theatre, Consolidated's Arboretum 12, Regal's Crown Point 12 and Regal's Stonecrest 22 theatre. In this area, the only other theatres showing first-run, commercial movies are an independent five-plex stadium theatre and the AMC Carolina Pavilion 22, a stadium theatre.

The Northern Raleigh area encompasses Regal's Brier Creek 14, Regal's North Hills 14, and Consolidated's Raleigh Grand. The only other theatres showing first-run, commercial movies in the Northern Raleigh area are the sloped-floor, six screen Six Forks and the 15-screen Carmike theatre with stadium seating.

The Southern Raleigh area consists of the suburb of Garner to the south of Raleigh and encompasses Regal's Garner Towne Square 10 and Consolidated's White Oak 14. There are no other theatres showing first-run, commercial movies in Southern Raleigh.

The Asheville area encompasses Regal's Hollywood 14 and the developing site of Consolidated's Biltmore Grande 15, which is scheduled to open in August of 2008. There are only two other non-Regal theatres showing first-run, commercial movies in Asheville—a Carmike theatre with 10 screens and a Fine Arts theatre with two screens.

According to the Complaint, moviegoers who reside in each of these areas are reluctant to travel significant distances out of that area to attend a movie except in unusual circumstances and would not do so in sufficient numbers to make a small but significant price increase unprofitable. As a consequence, each of these areas is a relevant geographic market in which to assess the competitive effects of the merger.

2. Competitive Effects in the Relevant Markets

The Complaint alleges that companies that operate first-run, commercial movie theatres (known as exhibitors) compete on multiple dimensions. They compete over the quality of the viewing experience. They compete to offer the most sophisticated sound systems, best picture clarity, nicest seats with best views, and cleanest floors and lobbies for moviegoers. Exhibitors also seek to license the first-run movies that are likely to attract the largest numbers of moviegoers. Exhibitors also compete on price,[1] knowing that if they charge too Start Printed Page 28163much (or do not offer sufficient discounted tickets for matinees, seniors, children, etc.), moviegoers will choose to view movies at rival theatres.

According to the Complaint, the proposed merger is likely to lead to higher ticket prices for moviegoers in each of the relevant markets. The merger would also reduce the newly merged entity's incentives to maintain, upgrade, and renovate its theatres in the relevant markets, to improve its theatres' amenities and services, and to license the highest revenues movies, thus reducing the quality of the viewing experience. The Complaint alleges these outcomes are likely because, in each of the relevant markets, Regal and Consolidated are each other's most significant competitor, given their close proximity to one another and to moviegoers.

In Southern Charlotte, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of four of the six first-run, commercial theatres in that area, with 56 out of 83 total screens and a 75% share of 2007 box office revenues, which totaled approximately $17.1 million. Using a measure of market concentration called the Herfmdahl-Hirschman Index (“HHI”), explained in Appendix A, the merger would yield a post-merger HHI of approximately 6058, representing an increase of roughly 2535 points.

In Northern Raleigh, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of three of the five first-run, commercial theatres in that area, with 44 of 65 total screens and 79% of 2007 box office revenues, which totaled approximately $11.6 million. The merger would yield a post-merger HHI of roughly 6523, representing an increase of around 2315 points.

In Southern Raleigh, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of the only two theatres in this area. Therefore, the market share of the combined entity would be 100% of screens and 100% of 2007 box office revenues, which totaled $3.5 million. The merger would yield the highest post-merger HHI number possible, 10,000, representing an increase of 3167 points.

In Asheville, after the completion of the Biltmore Grand 15, the proposed merger would give the newly merged entity control of four of the six first-run, commercial theatres with 41 of 53 total screens. As measured by total screens only (since Consolidated does not yet have box office revenues in Asheville), the combined entity would have a market share of approximately 77% in Asheville. The merger would yield a post-merger HHI of roughly 6,355, representing an increase of 2,777 points.

In each of these markets today, were Regal or Consolidated to increase ticket prices and the other were not to follow, the exhibitor that increased price would likely suffer financially as a substantial number of its patrons would patronize the other exhibitor's theatre. After the merger, the newly combined entity would re-capture such losses, making price increases profitable that would have been unprofitable pre-merger. Likewise, the proposed merger would also eliminate competition between Regal and Consolidated over the quality of the viewing experience at their theatres in each of the geographic markets at issue.

The Complaint explains that the presence of the other theatres offering first-run, commercial movies in certain of the relevant geographic markets would be insufficient to replace the competition lost due to the merger, and thus render unprofitable post-merger increases in ticket prices or decreases in quality by the newly merged entity. For various reasons, the other theatres in the relevant geographic markets offer less attractive options for the moviegoers that are served by the Regal and Consolidated theatres. For example, they are located further away from these moviegoers than are the Regal and Consolidated theatres, they are a relatively smaller size or have fewer screens than the Regal and Consolidated theatres, or they offer a lower quality a viewing experience than do the Regal and Consolidated theatres.

Finally, the Complaint alleges that the entry of a first-run, commercial movie theatre in response to an increase in movie ticket prices or a decline in theatre quality is unlikely in all of the relevant markets. Exhibitors are reluctant to locate new theatres near existing theatres unless the population density and demographics makes new entry viable or the existing theatres do not have stadium seating. That is not the case in any of the relevant markets. Over the next two years, the demand for more movie theatres in the areas at issue is not likely to support entry of a new theatre. And all of these markets have or will soon have theatres with stadium seating.

For all of these reasons, the United States has concluded that the proposed transaction would lessen competition substantially in the exhibition of first-run, commercial films in Southern Charlotte, Northern and Southern Raleigh, and Asheville, eliminate actual and potential competition between Regal and Consolidated, and likely result in increased ticket prices and lower quality theatres in those markets. The proposed merger therefore violates of Section 7 of the Clayton Act.

III. Explanation of the Proposed Final Judgment

The divestiture requirement of the proposed Final Judgment will eliminate the anticompetitive effects of the acquisitions in Southern Charlotte, Northern and Southern Raleigh, and Asheville by establishing new, independent, and economically viable competitors. The proposed Final Judgment requires Regal and Consolidated, within ninety (90) calendar days after the filing of the Complaint, or five (5) days after the notice of the entry of the Final Judgment by the court, whichever is later, to divest, as viable ongoing businesses, a total of four theatres in three metropolitan areas: Crown Point 12 (Southern Charlotte); the Raleigh Grand 16 (Northern Raleigh); Town Square 10 (Southern Raleigh); and Hollywood 14 (Asheville). Sale of these theatres will thus preserve existing competition between the defendants' theatres that are or would have been each others' most significant competitor in the theatrical exhibition of first-run films in Southern Charlotte, Northern and Southern Raleigh, and Asheville. The assets must be divested in such a way as to satisfy the United States in its sole discretion that the theatres can and will be operated by the purchaser as viable, ongoing businesses that can compete effectively as first-run commercial theatres. Defendants must use their best efforts to accomplish the divestiture quickly and shall cooperate with prospective purchasers. Until the divestitures take place, Regal and Consolidated must maintain the sales and marketing of the theatres, and maintain the theatres in operable condition at current capacity configurations. Until the divestitures take place, Regal and Consolidated must not transfer or reassign to other areas within the company their employees with primary responsibility for the operation of the Theatre Assets, except for transfer bids initiated by employees pursuant to Defendants' regular, established job posting policy.

In the event that Defendants do not accomplish the divestitures within the periods prescribed in the proposed Final Judgment, the Final Judgment provides that the Court will appoint a trustee selected by the United States to effect the divestitures. If a trustee is Start Printed Page 28164appointed, the proposed Final Judgment provides that Regal and Consolidated will pay all costs and expenses of the trustee. The trustee's commission will be structured so as to provide an incentive for the trustee based on the price obtained and the speed with which the divestitures are accomplished. After his or her appointment becomes effective, the trustee will file monthly reports with the Court and the United States, setting forth his or her efforts to accomplish the divestiture. At the end of six (6) months, if the divestitures have not been accomplished, the trustee and the United States will make recommendations to the Court, which shall enter such orders as appropriate, in order to carry out the purpose of the trust, including extending the trust or the term of the trustee's appointment.

If Defendants or trustee are not able to obtain a landlord's consent to sell one of the theatres to be divested, Section VI of the proposed Final Judgment permits Defendants to propose an alternative theatre to be divested. The United States shall determine whether the theatre offered competes effectively with the theatre that could not be divested due to a failure to obtain landlord consent. This provision will insure that any failure by Defendants to obtain landlord consent by Defendants does not thwart the relief obtained in the proposed Final Judgment.

The proposed Final Judgment also prohibits Defendants from acquiring any other theatres in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; Wake County, North Carolina; and Buncombe County, North Carolina without providing at least thirty (30) days notice to the United States Department of Justice. Such acquisitions could raise competitive concerns but might be too small to be reported under the Hart-Scott-Rodino (“HSR”) premerger notification statute.

IV. Remedies Available to Potential Private Litigants

Section 4 of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 15, provides that any person who has been injured as a result of conduct prohibited by the antitrust laws may bring suit in federal court to recover three times the damages the person has suffered, as well as costs and reasonable attorney's fees. Entry of the proposed Final Judgment will neither impair nor assist the bringing of any private antitrust damage action. Under the provisions of Section 5(a) of the Clayton Act, 15 U.S.C. 16(a), the proposed Final Judgment has no prima facie effect in any subsequent private lawsuit that may be brought against Defendants.

V. Procedures Available for Modification of the Proposed Final Judgment

The United States and Defendants have stipulated that the proposed Final Judgment may be entered by the Court after compliance with the provisions of the APPA, provided that the United States has not withdrawn its consent. The APPA conditions entry upon the Court's determination that the proposed Final Judgment is in the public interest.

The APPA provides a period of at least sixty (60) days preceding the effective date of the proposed Final Judgment within which any person may submit to the United States written comments regarding the proposed Final Judgment. Any person who wishes to comment should do so within sixty (60) days of the date of publication of this Competitive Impact Statement in the Federal Register, or the last date of publication in a newspaper of the summary of this Competitive Impact Statement, whichever is later. All comments received during this period will be considered by the United States Department of Justice, which remains free to withdraw its consent to the proposed Final Judgment at any time prior to the Court's entry of judgment. The comments and the response of the United States will be filed with the Court and published in the Federal Register.

Written comments should be submitted to: John R. Read, Chief, Antitrust Division/Litigation III, United States Department of Justice, 450 5th Street, NW., Suite 4000, Washington, DC 20530.

The proposed Final Judgment provides that the Court retains jurisdiction over this action, and the parties may apply to the Court for any order necessary or appropriate for the modification, interpretation, or enforcement of the Final Judgment.

VI. Alternatives to the Proposed Final Judgment

The United States considered, as an alternative to the proposed Final Judgment, a full trial on the merits against Defendants. The United States could have continued the litigation and sought preliminary and permanent injunctions against Regal's merger with Consolidated. The United States is satisfied, however, that the divestiture of assets and other relief described in the proposed Final Judgment will preserve competition for the exhibition of first-run, commercial films in the relevant markets identified by the United States. Thus, the proposed Final Judgment would achieve all or substantially all of the relief the United States would have obtained through litigation, but avoids the time, expense, and uncertainty of a full trial on the merits of the Complaint.

VII. Standard of Review Under the APPA for the Proposed Final Judgment

The Clayton Act, as amended by the APPA, requires that proposed consent judgments in antitrust cases brought by the United States be subject to a sixty-day comment period, after which the court shall determine whether entry of the proposed Final Judgment “is in the public interest.” 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1). In making that determination, the court, in accordance with the statute as amended in 2004, is required to consider:

(A) The competitive impact of such judgment, including termination of alleged violations, provisions for enforcement and modification, duration of relief sought, anticipated effects of alternative remedies actually considered, whether its terms are ambiguous, and any other competitive considerations bearing upon the adequacy of such judgment that the court deems necessary to a determination of whether the consent judgment is in the public interest; and

(B) The impact of entry of such judgment upon competition in the relevant market or markets, upon the public generally and individuals alleging specific injury from the violations set forth in the complaint including consideration of the public benefit, if any, to be derived from a determination of the issues at trial.

15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1)(A) & (B). In considering these statutory factors, the court's inquiry is necessarily a limited one as the government is entitled to “broad discretion to settle with the defendant within the reaches of the public interest.” United States v. Microsoft Corp., 56 F.3d 1448, 1461 (D.C. Cir. 1995); see generally United States v. SBC Commc'ns, Inc., 489 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.C. 2007) (assessing public interest standard under the Tunney Act).[2]

As the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has held, under the APPA a court considers, among other things, the relationship between the remedy secured and the specific allegations set forth in the Start Printed Page 28165government's complaint, whether the decree is sufficiently clear, whether enforcement mechanisms are sufficient, and whether the decree may positively harm third parties. See Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 145862. With respect to the adequacy of the relief secured by the decree, a court may not “engage in an unrestricted evaluation of what relief would best serve the public.” United States v. BNS, Inc., 858 F.2d 456, 462 (9th Cir. 1988) (citing United States v. Bechtel Corp., 648 F.2d 660, 666 (9th Cir. 1981)); see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1460-62; United States v. Alcoa, Inc., 152 F. Supp. 2d 37, 40 (D.D.C. 2001). Courts have held that:

[t]he balancing of competing social and political interests affected by a proposed antitrust consent decree must be left, in the first instance, to the discretion of the Attorney General. The court's role in protecting the public interest is one of insuring that the government has not breached its duty to the public in consenting to the decree. The court is required to determine not whether a particular decree is the one that will best serve society, but whether the settlement is “within the reaches of the public interest.” More elaborate requirements might undermine the effectiveness of antitrust enforcement by consent decree.

Bechtel, 648 F.2d at 666 (emphasis added) (citations omitted).[3] In determining whether a proposed settlement is in the public interest, a district court “must accord deference to the government's predictions about the efficacy of its remedies, and may not require that the remedies perfectly match the alleged violations.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 17; see also Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (noting the need for courts to be “deferential to the government's predictions as to the effect of the proposed remedies”); United States v. Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., 272 F. Supp. 2d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2003) (noting that the court should grant due respect to the United States' prediction as to the effect of proposed remedies, its perception of the market structure, and its views of the nature of the case).

Courts have greater flexibility in approving proposed consent decrees than in crafting their own decrees following a finding of liability in a litigated matter. “[A] proposed decree must be approved even if it falls short of the remedy the court would impose on its own, as long as it falls within the range of acceptability or is ‘within the reaches of public interest.’ ” United States v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 552 F. Supp. 131, 151 (D.D.C. 1982) (citations omitted) (quoting United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975)), aff'd sub nom. Maryland v. United States, 460 U.S. 1001 (1983); see also United States v. Alcan Aluminum Ltd., 605 F. Supp. 619, 622 (W.D. Ky. 1985) (approving the consent decree even though the court would have imposed a greater remedy). To meet this standard, the United States “need only provide a factual basis for concluding that the settlements are reasonably adequate remedies for the alleged harms.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 17.

Moreover, the court's role under the APPA is limited to reviewing the remedy in relationship to the violations that the United States has alleged in its Complaint, and does not authorize the court to “construct [its] own hypothetical case and then evaluate the decree against that case.” Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1459. Because the “court's authority to review the decree depends entirely on the government's exercising its prosecutorial discretion by bringing a case in the first place,” it follows that “the court is only authorized to review the decree itself,” and not to “effectively redraft the complaint” to inquire into other matters that the United States did not pursue. Id. at 1459-60. As this Court recently confirmed in SBC Communications, courts “cannot look beyond the complaint in making the public interest determination unless the complaint is drafted so narrowly as to make a mockery of judicial power.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 15.

In its 2004 amendments, Congress made clear its intent to preserve the practical benefits of utilizing consent decrees in antitrust enforcement, adding the unambiguous instruction that “[n]othing in this section shall be construed to require the court to conduct an evidentiary hearing or to require the court to permit anyone to intervene.” 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(2). The language wrote into the statute what Congress intended when it enacted the Tunney Act in 1974, as Senator Tunney explained: “[t]he court is nowhere compelled to go to trial or to engage in extended proceedings which might have the effect of vitiating the benefits of prompt and less costly settlement through the consent decree process.” 119 Cong. Rec. 24,598 (1973) (statement of Senator Tunney). Rather, the procedure for the public interest determination is left to the discretion of the court, with the recognition that the court's “scope of review remains sharply proscribed by precedent and the nature of Tunney Act proceedings.” SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 11.[4]

VIII. Determinative Documents

There are no determinative materials or documents within the meaning of the APPA that were considered by the United States in formulating the proposed Final Judgment.

Dated: April 30, 2008.

Respectfully submitted,

Gregg I. Malawer (DC Bar No. 481685), Jennifer A. Warnsley (DC Bar No. 486540), Anne Newton McFadden, U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust, Division 450 S Street, NW., Suite 4000, Washington, DC 20530, (202) 514-0230, Attorneys for Plaintiff the United States.

Exhibit A—Definition of HHI and Calculations for Market

“HHI” means the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, a commonly accepted measure of market concentration. It is calculated by squaring the market share of each firm competing in the market and then summing the resulting numbers. For example, for a market consisting of four firms with shares of thirty, thirty, twenty and twenty percent, the HHI is 2600 (302 + 302 + 202 + 202 = 2600). The HHI takes into account the relative size and distribution of the firms in a market and approaches zero when a market consists of a large number of firms of relatively equal size. The HHI increases both as the number of firms in the market decreases and as the disparity in size between those firms increases.

Markets in which the HHI is between 1000 and 1800 points are considered to be moderately concentrated, and those in which the HHI is in excess of 1800 points are considered to be concentrated. Transactions that increase the HHI by more than 100 points in Start Printed Page 28166concentrated markets presumptively raise antitrust concerns under the Merger Guidelines. See Merger Guidelines 1.51.

End Preamble

Footnotes

1.  An example of such price competition occurred in 2006 in Southern Raleigh when Consolidated opened the White Oak 14, a stadium theatre. Regal's Towne Square theatre in Southern Raleigh is an older sloped-floor theatre located approximately five miles away. After the White Oak 14 opened, the Towne Square theatre decreased its adult admission price substantially.

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2.  The 2004 amendments substituted “shall” for “may” in directing relevant factors for court to consider and amended the list of factors to focus on competitive considerations and to address potentially ambiguous judgment terms. Compare 15 U.S.C. 16(e) (2004), with 15 U.S.C. 16(e)(1) (2006); see also SBC Commc'ns, 489 F. Supp. 2d at 11 (concluding that the 2004 amendments “effected minimal changes” to Tunney Act review.

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3.  Cf. BNS, 858 F.2d at 464 (holding that the court's “ultimate authority under the IAPPA] is limited to approving or disapproving the consent decree”); United States v. Gillette Co., 406 F. Supp. 713, 716 (D. Mass. 1975) (noting that, in this way, the court is constrained to “look at the overall picture not hypercritically, nor with a microscope, but with an artist's reducing glass”). See generally Microsoft, 56 F.3d at 1461 (discussing whether “the remedies [obtained in the decree are] so inconsonant with the allegations charged as to fall outside of the ‘reaches of the public interest”’).

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4.  See United States v. Enova Corp., 107 F. Supp. 2d 10, 17 (D.D.C. 2000) (noting that the “Tunney Act expressly allows the court to make its public interest determination on the basis of the competitive impact statement and response to comments alone”); United States v. Mid-Am. Dairymen, Inc., 1977-1 Trade Cas. (CCH) section 61,508, at 71,980 (W.D. Mo. 1977) (“Absent a showing of corrupt failure of the government to discharge its duty, the Court, in making its public interest finding, should * * * carefully consider the explanations of the government in the competitive impact statement and its responses to comments in order to determine whether those explanations are reasonable under the circumstances.”); S. Rep. No. 93298, 93d Cong., 1st Sess., at 6 (1973) (“Where the public interest can be meaningfully evaluated simply on the basis of briefs and oral arguments, that is the approach that should be utilized.”).

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[FR Doc. E8-10415 Filed 5-14-08; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4410-11-M