CLASS ACTION COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AND MONEY DAMAGES
1. Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, seeks to enjoin the above-named company from their ongoing practice of postponing the starting time of feature films in order to deluge captive audiences with unannounced and unwanted advertisements, a practice commonly referred to as “commercial creep.” Failure to start the movie at the scheduled time and only after foisting commercials advertisements on the movie-going audience constitutes a breach of contract. In addition, the showing of commercial advertisements prior to feature films, without informing consumers of the real starting times, constitutes a deceptive business practice. Plaintiff brings this Complaint on behalf of a class of similarly-situated ticket buyers in Illinois and across the country who find themselves paying good money to sit through unwanted and unannounced advertisements and promotions. In support of her Complaint, Plaintiff states as follows:
2. Plaintiff is a resident of Cook County, Illinois.
3. Defendant Loews Cineplex Entertainment Group (“Loews”) is a Delaware Corporation with a principal place of business in Centennial, Colorado. Loews owns and operates, or otherwise controls through a network of subsidiaries, the Loews theaters in Cook County, Illinois.
4. Loews is being sued individually and on behalf of a defendant class of entities that do business as Loews Cinemas, including franchisees, subsidiaries and company-owned movie theatres. Loews is an adequate defendant class representative because, as franchisor, parent company and/or store owner, it establishes and imposes the Loews’ policies and procedures that are the subject of this action. In addition, Loews has the financial resources necessary to defend this action on behalf of itself and the defendant class and is motivated to vigorously defend this action given its joint and several, if not ultimate, liability for the acts complained of herein.
Jurisdiction and Venue
5. This is an action for violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, 815 ILCS 505/2 et seq., and for breach of contract under Illinois law. The Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 735 ILCS ¡± 5/2-209.
6. Venue is properly laid in this Court pursuant to 735 ILCS ¡±¡± 5/2-101(2), 102(a)(b); 815 ILCS ¡± 505/10a(b), as the conduct at issue in this action took place entirely or substantially in Cook County, and both Defendants operate businesses in this County.
7. On February 8, 2003, Plaintiff purchased a ticket for the 4:45 p.m. showing of the feature film, “The Quiet American,” at Loews Cinema theater, Pipers Alley, on North Avenue in Chicago, Cook County.
8. The theater in question is owned, operated, and/or controlled by Defendant Loews, acting alone or through one or more subsidiaries.
9. The film was advertised in various local newspapers as beginning at 4:45, and the marquee at the theater confirmed this starting time.
10. A true and correct copy of the movie ticket stub is attached hereto as Exhibit 1, which shows he scheduled start time of the movie to be 4:45 p.m.
11. The movie did not begin at the time scheduled. Instead, at 4:45 p.m. Loews showed a stream of advertisements, product placements, and promotions prior to the actual feature film, including the following.
(a). Commercial Message No 1: commercial for Coca-Cola, in which two adolescent boys meet up with two adolescent girls outside in front of a Coke machine; the boys make small talk with the girls that includes their explaining to the girls, “In Thailand, it’s illegal not to wear underwear”;
(b) Commercial Message No. 2: commercial for Cingular Wireless, which consists of little more than a giant image of Cingular Wireless’ logo;
(c) Commercial Message No. 3: commercial for Fandango, an internet service company allowing moviegoers to purchase their tickets ahead of time; commercial revolves around a young man driving up to a movie theatre (a miniature Buddha-like figure hanging from his rear-view mirror) who is refused admission to the movies due to it being sold out and his not having bought his tickets ahead of time from Fandango; and
(d) Commercial Message No. 4: commercial for the National Advancement of Color People (NAACP) that shows images of Black civil rights leaders and police officers and notes that the NAACP is “still leading the fight to bring justice and equality to everyone.”
12. The actual feature film began at 4:49, four minutes later than the posted starting time.
13. This action may be brought and maintained as a class action pursuant to the provisions of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure, 735 ILCS 5/2-801 et seq. Plaintiff brings the action on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated.
14. Plaintiff requests certification of the following nationwide class:
All persons who have purchased tickets for movies from Loews cinemas where the starting time of the feature did not match the starting time on the ticket due to the showing of advertisements and promotions. Defendant and the members of the Illinois judiciary are excluded from the class.
15. The nationwide defendant class definition would be:
All entities doing business as a Loews Cinema.
16. The classes are so numerous that joinder of all its members is impracticable. The Plaintiff class includes thousands of persons victimized by Loews’s practice of showing commercials prior to the start of a movie (“commercial creep”). The defendant class consists of more than 50 entities doing business in the United States as Loews Cinema.
Common Questions of Law and Fact
17. Common questions of law and fact arise from the allegations herein. Such common questions predominate over any questions affecting individual members. The myriad questions of law and fact common to the class include:
(a) Has Loews delayed the starting time of feature movies in order to show advertisements to a captive audience;
(b) Is Loews engaged in the ongoing practice of delaying the starting time of features in order to show advertisements to generate revenue at the expense of consumers;
(c) Whether Loews’s conduct constitutes a deceptive or unfair practice;
(d) Whether Loews’s conduct constitutes a breach of conduct;
(e) Whether Plaintiff class members are entitled to damages or other relief.
18. All class claims arise from the same practice and are all based on the same legal theories.
19. Plaintiff will fairly and adequately represent and protect the interests of the Plaintiff class members and have no interests antagonistic to those of the plaintiff class members.
20. Plaintiff has retained competent counsel experienced in the prosecution and successful settlement of class actions. Similarly, Loews will retain competent counsel to represent itself and the proposed defendant class.
21. Loews is an adequate representative of the defendant class because, as franchiser and/or parent company, it establishes and imposes the movie-going policies and procedures that are the subject of this action. In addition, Loews has the financial resources necessary to defend this action on behalf of itself and the defendant class and is motivated to vigorously defend this action given its joint and several, if not ultimate, liability for the acts complained of herein.
Appropriateness of Class Action
22. Class litigation is appropriate in this case because the class members are so numerous and so widespread. Furthermore, as the economic damages suffered by each individual member of the class are relatively small – less than $100 per claimant – the expense and burden of individual litigation would make it difficult, if not impossible, for individual members of the class to redress the wrongs done to them. Absent a class action, the defendants will continue to perpetrate their deceptive course of conduct and retain their ill-gotten profits at the expense of the plaintiff class.
23. The cost to the court system of individualized litigation would be substantial. Individualized litigation would also present the potential for inconsistent or contradictory judgments and would magnify the delay and expense to all parties and the court system in multiple trials of identical or similar complex factual issues. Conversely, this class action presents fewer management difficulties, conserves the resources of the parties and the court system, protects the rights of each class member and maximizes recovery to them. Most importantly, without this class action, plaintiff and plaintiff class members will effectively be left without remedy or redress.