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On May 1, unless legal action intervenes, Market Square Theatre patrons may find themselves without a convenient place to park when they head to a $3 movie — if the theater survives at all.

According to a lawsuit filed Friday in Dane County Circuit Court, a company that owns the parking lot closest to the theater, where patrons of the budget multiplex customarily park, has told the owners of the Market Square shopping center the parking lot is being sold and that moviegoers don’t have a right to park there.

The company has informed shopping center owner Market Square Associates LLC and Silver Cinemas, which operates the second-run movie theater, that barricades will go up on May 1 to keep movie patrons from using the 151-space parking lot, which is located immediately outside the movie theater’s doors.

Without adequate parking, MSA manager Bruce Bosben wrote in an affidavit filed with the lawsuit, Silver Cinemas “will not be able to properly service its movie-going customers, and thus, it will likely terminate the Theater Lease as it is running on a month-to-month term.”

Bosben added that it’s unlikely that any other movie theater company would want to lease the theater without access to adequate parking, and that could lead to a decision to raze the theater.

MSA’s lawsuit asks a judge to find that a theater lease it assumed from the shopping center’s prior owner allows it continued use of the parking lot. It is also seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to keep the owner of the parking lot property from barring theater patrons from using the lot.

In 2008, according to the lawsuit, most of the Market Square shopping center, located in the 6600 block of Odana Road on Madison’s West Side, was sold by Market Square LLC to similarly-named Market Square Associates LLC. But the parking lot that fronts the movie theater, located at the back side of the shopping center along Normandy Lane, was not included in the sale, and Market Square LLC retained it.

In its lawsuit, MSA wrote that Market Square LLC, as landlord to the movie theater, assigned its rights under the theater’s lease to MSA at the time of the shopping center sale, including the use of the parking lot near the theater. Since then, the lawsuit states, the movie theater has allowed its patrons to park there.

But in a March 14 letter to MSA and Silver Cinemas, lawyer Edward Lawton, representing Market Square LLC, wrote that the parking lot that still belongs to Market Square LLC is being sold to a third party not named in his letter. He wrote that the sale would close soon.

Lawton also informed MSA and Silver Cinemas in the letter that rights to use the parking lot do not exist, and that MSA and Silver Cinemas must “immediately cease and desist asserting any such rights.” If they continued to assert rights, or if the sale of the parking lot property falls through because of that assertion, Lawton wrote, Market Square LLC would immediately file a lawsuit seeking lost profits from the sale and other damages.

He wrote that any current or past lease agreements don’t form a legal basis for continued use of the lot by the theater or its customers beyond April 30.

Lawton declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday.

Market Square Theatre contains five screens with 1,227 seats. Bosben wrote in his affidavit that aside from the parking lot near the theater, there are two other parking lots on the Market Square property that contain 447 parking spaces. The shopping center has 35 businesses that all require the use of those parking lots, he wrote, and Silver Cinemas “would run the risk of customers’ refusal to patronize the theater because of inadequate available parking.”

Silver Cinemas, a division of the Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres chain, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Ed Treleven is the courts reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.