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Good news for Disney: Movie studios might soon be able to buy their own theaters – The A.V. Club

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Photo: Topical Press Agency (Getty Images)

According to Variety, the Department Of Justice is planning to reverse the Paramount consent decrees, a set of “landmark agreements that have barred studios from owning theaters for the last 70 years.” This will also un-ban previously forbidden practices called “block booking” and “circuit dealing,” which involved studios forcing theaters to buy multiple films as a package deal—like, say, Disney saying that a theater can only get Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker if all of its other screens are showing Frozen 2, forcing out the competition. This has all been outlawed since the ‘40s, separating the actual movie production companies from the place where movies are shown—the theaters—in an effort to stop major studios from monopolizing the entire distribution chain.

As the DOJ explains, though, that rule has become outdated by modern distribution technology, since home video releases and streaming allow the studios to bring content directly to consumers. Makan Delrahim, head of the DOJ’s antitrust division, says that the Paramount decrees are stifling “consumer-enhancing innovation,” with Variety saying he specifically cited MoviePass as something that was somehow hindered by this (presumably in addition to its many faults, like its generally awful service). As the DOJ explains, though, stuff like “block booking” won’t suddenly be legal, it just won’t be explicitly illegal. Supposedly, if a studio—like, say, Disney—does try to pull some shenanigans, it will still be addressed by “antitrust enforcers” because it would still probably be a violation of existing antitrust laws. The government just doesn’t want to risk impacting “consumer-enhancing innovation” by explicitly telling the studios what they can and cannot do.

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The reason we keep referencing Disney here is because it’s a company that could really benefit from more lenient rules about what it can do with its movies. After all, it has the money and the library of film projects to really benefit from owning an entire theater, and it could easily eclipse a smaller studio that dares to try and open a movie against a new Avengers or Toy Story. This, more or less, is one of the things Martin Scorsese is concerned about when it comes to the overwhelming popularity of Marvel movies, as now—or at least once the DOJ gets a judge to approve reversing the decrees—it’ll be slightly easier for Disney to actually fill a theater with nothing but its own superhero movies.

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