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AMC, Regal forming movie venture

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LOS ANGELES » The nation’s two largest movie theater chains are about to encroach on Hollywood studios’ turf.

Regal Entertainment Group, which has a major presence in Hawaii, and AMC Entertainment Inc. are close to launching a joint venture to acquire and release independent movies, according to people familiar with the situation, a part of the business historically dominated by the Hollywood studios.

The move potentially disrupts the longtime and delicate business relationship between theater operators and studios, in which they have acted as partners and divided a movie’s box office ticket sales. Instead, the venture would essentially thrust theaters into the studio’s role of distributor, turning a partner into a rival as the theaters’ own movies compete for screens against those from the studios.

It also is occurring against a backdrop of increasingly strained relations between theaters and studios as the latter are looking to release movies directly into the home through video-on-demand shortly after they have appeared in theaters. Theater operators fear that will dissuade people from going to the movies.

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