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The US has always had substantial pockets of foreign language speakers, particularly in immigrant communities. Were there ever theaters catering to these populations with foreign language versions of American films?

I do not mean foreign imported films, e.g. Bollywood theaters in Indian-American communities. I mean exhibitors playing German- or Spanish- or French- or Italian-language versions of American films. This could have been when Hollywood produced parallel foreign versions, e.g. Paramount's "European Hollywood" in Joinville-le-Pont, France; dubbed versions, produced by American studios or foreign distributors; subtitles; or any other way.

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The answer is yes.

Apparently it is hard for these theaters to survive because bigger chains squeeze them out of new releases with protectionist "exclusive access" clauses. At least that is what one theater in Houston, Texas claims (emphasis mine):

A shuttered Spanish-language movie theater filed an antitrust suit against AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. in Texas federal court on Monday, accusing the nation’s second largest movie exhibitor of illegally squeezing it out of the Houston area market by blocking the smaller cinema from getting new releases.

Viva Cinema said that AMC told major Hollywood studios it wanted exclusive licensing rights and threatened not to show movies at its nearby location if they were also playing at Viva. The niche theater, unable to secure virtually any new releases, said that it was forced to close in the fall of 2013, less than seven months after it opened.

....

In Houston, which has a large Hispanic population, Viva said that there were no theaters offering new releases dubbed in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles. Viva, hoping to cater to that underserved market, opened its eight-screen movie and dinner theater with a “Latin flair” in May 2013 inside a shopping mall near the city’s downtown.

Furthermore this source says the AMC theather in Houston that is the target of the anti-trust lawsuit did show Spanish dubbed/subtitled movies infrequently (emphasis mine):

“During the period of Viva Cinema’s operations, AMC infrequently showed some films in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles (during matinee and not evening showings), and then, once Viva Cinema went out of business, AMC went back to its prior practices of exhibiting no, or virtually no, Spanish-language films, and — if exhibiting them at all — only on an extremely limited basis,” Viva contends in the lawsuit.

  • Great response! I am wondering if there are examples other than this theater, elsewhere in the country, or further back in history, i.e. during great waves of migration in the 20th century. That is, the extent and history of this practice. – JBB Jul 21 '17 at 2:00
  • @JBB I'm sure there's more examples. This is just what I could find quickly – Erik Jul 21 '17 at 2:01

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