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Pop Corn Monopolies at the Cinemas? Comment to the Madrid Provincial Court Judgment (Section 21st) of 8 January 2003

 |  November 12, 2018

By Francisco Marcos (IE Law School)

The prohibition set out by movie theaters to access them with food or beverages purchased outside their premises has bot undeniable economic justification and legal legitimacy. It is based on the ability of entrepreneurs to freely set up and organize their enterprise, expressly recognized by the Spanish Constitution (article 38). Moreover, the evolution of the cinema industry in recent years explains the changes in business model and strategies of companies engaged in this activities, which have generally meant that they have been forced to modify and expand their services in the market to satisfy viewers’ desires and maintain profitability. Movie theaters can freely and legitimately exploit the business opportunities derived or arisen from their own business.

Nowadays, the sale of popcorn of other food and drinks is so important to theaters as the exhibition of films themselves, and that’s the reason why the ban on the consumption of products purchased outside their premises is perfectly logical and consistent with freedom of enterprise, being also respectful of the rights of consumers -who are never forced to buy products or ancillary services aside of the movie tickets. As this paper tries to show, the “pop corn ban” passes the analysis of legality under antitrust law, consumer law, unfair competition law and commercial regulation, despite some judicial decisions and administrative resolutions in Spain which have considered otherwise based on consumer protection rules.

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