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Paramount Consent Decrees are Done With


A little history lesson first. Since the golden age of movies, antitrust laws have been in place called the Paramount Consent Decrees. These laws barred studios from owning movie theaters as a way to break up the stranglehold that major studios maintained on the business by preventing them from owning both the means of production and distribution. The irony of course is that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) has been displaying their own stranglehold over studios, particularly put on display when, after Universal Pictures chose to release Trolls World Tour on paid video on demand since the film's theatrical release was halted by the quarantine. After that, NATO swore that when that when the quarantine was over, Universal's movies would not be shown in major theater chains. Perhaps it was actions like that that that helped push the recent efforts of the Justice Department to do away with the Paramount Consent Decrees from now confirmed.

While it's been in the works since last fall, many seeing the Decrees as "anachronistic", today U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres found in a ruling “that termination of the Decrees is in the public interest.” And by eliminating these rules, this will also eventually lift restrictions against acts like "block booking" (Selling multiple films to a theater as a unit) and "circuit dealing" (The process by which a Hollywood studio plays its films only at a certain circuit) after a two-year sunset period.

For those who fear a monopoly, it should be noted that inevitability of this action. Hollywood has already been searching new ways to distribute their films in-house, the most notable way being internet streaming services. So distributors have become less reliant on theatrical distribution anyway beyond major blockbuster releases and to fill the theatrical requirements of films that hope to enter the award season. The latter has already occurred with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences lessening the theatrical release requirements for films going for the Academy Awards next year due to the quarantine of this year. So whatever happens next, it was mostly likely unavoidable but it might not be the worst thing. Stay tuned!

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