Personal displeasure expressed by few theatre owners in their personal capacity cannot be grounds to impute anti-competitive behavior on the part of the answering association: Competition Commission of India

The Informant had alleged contravention of Section 3 of the Competition by the Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association (TNTMOA). His complaint was based on media reports, and vague allegations without solid reasons. Moreover, he was found to be a random party with no direct relation to the Theatre Industry, thus this decision by the CCI. This was held In Re: C. Prabhu Daniel And M/s Tamil Nadu Theatre and Multiplex Owners Association [ C. No. 07 of 2021] heard before Hon’ble Chairperson Mr. Ashok Kumar Gupta, Ms. Sangeeta Verma (Member) and Mr. Bhagwant Singh Bishnoi (Member).

The Informant states that, the Tamil Movie, ‘Aelay’ was to be released on 12th February 2021 but three days before the release, no theatres were made available as theatre owners mandated that no movie should be screened on OTT platforms for 30 days. Thus, the movie was premiered on a television channel. The Informant claims that the OP Association is preventing producers from having an additional or alternative medium of film release by requiring written commitments from producers that they will not premiere the film for 30 days after its theatrical release.

It is pertinent to note the OP’s response, in which it strongly denied the Informant’s accusations. It was asserted that the Informant had failed to present any material demonstrating an agreement between the theatre owners, including communication exchanged between the theatre owners from which any allegations could be inferred. The Informant has made ridiculous claims about the theatres and the reasons why they were unable to release movies. The informant cannot object OP’s internal policies, which are completely in accordance with the laws, including the Competition Act. It is ludicrous to think that during the pandemic, theatre owners deny access to release films on their screens because they are “desperate” to make ends meet. It was stated that OP could not be held liable for grievances against independent theatre owners. The Informant’s uncorroborated statements, media reports, and rumours in support of the claims are unenforceable, irrelevant, unreliable, and inadequate, in addition to being incapable of proof under the Indian Evidence Act.

The Commission was of the opinion that, “the mode and medium of release of films, viz. through theatrical release or OTT or both or in any other manner whatsoever, is absolutely within the discretion and power of the film producers……. not only has the Informant failed to adduce any material to support its allegations but has not even filed a rejoinder to the categorical denials made in reply/response filed by the OP and TFPC. In these circumstances, the Commission is of the considered opinion that the Informant is not able to show or otherwise present any material wherefrom even prima facie finding of contravention can be recorded against the OP. 21. Resultantly, the Commission is of the opinion that no case of contravention of the provisions of the Act is made out, and the matter is ordered to be closed forthwith in terms of the provisions contained in Section 26(2) of the Act”.

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Judgement Reviewed by Vagisha Sagar

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