On August 2, 2018, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division announced that it would begin a review of legacy consent decrees “regulat[ing] how certain movie studios distribute films to movie theatres.” The Paramount Consent Decrees have been in place for almost 70 years. U.S. v. Paramount, 334 U.S. 131 (1948). The Supreme Court decision forced major studios to sell their theater chains. Since that ruling, the Paramount decrees, have governed the way that studios do business with exhibitors. The decrees have prohibited certain “motion picture distribution practices, including block booking (bundling multiple films into one theatre license), circuit dealing (entering into one license that covered all theatres in a theatre circuit), resale price maintenance (setting minimum prices on movie tickets), and granting overbroad clearances (exclusive film licenses for specific geographic areas).”
The DOJ has indicated its review will take into account the changes in the identity of movie theatre owners, the increased number of movie theaters in a geographic area, the increased number of screens in movie theaters, and increased number of viewing platforms available to consumers. The review is part of the Antitrust Division’s initiative to terminate long-standing antitrust judgment, including many that have no termination date.
“The Paramount Decrees have been on the books with no sunset provisions since 1949. Much has changed in the motion picture industry since that time,” Makan Delrahim, the DOJ’s antitrust chief, said in a statement. “It is high time that these and other legacy judgments are examined to determine whether they still serve to protect competition.”