the industry

Judge Reverses Decades-Old Paramount Consent Decrees

Photo: Andreas Feininger/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Just to be totally sure that the movie theater experience — whenever it returns — will be nowhere near what we knew it to be before: The decades-old Paramount Consent Decrees, which have barred Hollywood studios from merging with national theater chains, have been reversed. According to The Hollywood Reporter, U.S. District Court Judge Analisa Torres granted a motion by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday to terminate the film industry’s licensing rules that were put in place by the Supreme Court decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures. “Given this changing marketplace, the Court finds that it is unlikely that the remaining Defendants would collude to once again limit their film distribution to a select group of theaters in the absence of the Decrees and, finds, therefore, that termination is in the public interest,” she wrote in a 17-page opinion. Under Trump’s DOJ, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim first moved to terminate the decrees in November 2019, saying that “the horizontal conspiracy — the original violation animating the decrees — has been stopped.”

In 1948, United States v. Paramount Pictures changed the way movies were distributed and exhibited in Hollywood and ended the studio system. At the time of the decision, major film studios owned the theaters their movies were shown in; as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, studios had to divest from theater ownership and could no longer “block book” by bundling multiple films and selling them to a theater as a unit. In her decision, Judge Torres said that block booking is no longer a risk: “There also are many other movie distribution platforms, like television, the internet and DVDs, that did not exist in the 1930s and ‘40s. Given these significant changes in the market, there is less danger that a block booking licensing agreement would create a barrier to entry that would foreclose independent movie distributors from sufficient access to the market.” Just another normal day with more normal news that will work out totally fine!

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