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John Merchant has just one 49er Video store left, and it's in the red. His revenue is a fifth of what his business did at its peak a few years back with five stores.
Merchant and 200 other independent video store owners nationally blame Blockbuster Inc. and the largest motion picture studios for their businesses' struggles or failures.
With Merchant as one of two lead plaintiffs, the independent video store owners have filed suit -- and are seeking class-action status -- alleging that Blockbuster and the movie studios have violated laws against unfair competition and business practices.
Starting in late 1997, the nation's largest video rental chain entered into secret revenue-sharing agreements with the studios, the suit alleges, to increase Blockbuster's market share by driving independent retailers out of business. The lawsuit was filed Jan. 31 in Los Angeles County Superior Court Merchant believes the damages for …