Trump Justice Department Aims to Upend Paramount Consent Decree Prohibitions, Cites Changing Film Industry
Mon, April 19, 2021

Trump Justice Department Aims to Upend Paramount Consent Decree Prohibitions, Cites Changing Film Industry

A decades-long decree in the movie industry will be reversed as the US Department of Justice announced that they will be overturning “several legal settlements” that have been in place for years / Photo by: Rebell18190 via Wikimedia Commons

 

A decades-long decree in the movie industry will be reversed as the US Department of Justice announced that they will be overturning “several legal settlements” that have been in place for years so as to prevent big production studios from getting away with things like “block booking” and “circuit dealing." This was reported by the New York Post. 

This decree is called the Paramount decree of 1948, which the Supreme Court put into place to ensure that the “eight major American film studios” would be forced to distribute their movies separately. With all this in mind, what kind of effects will this decision actually do to the industry? 

Select Few

The first foreseeable effect of this decision is that bigger production companies would swoop in much faster with so much more ease than smaller production houses. The reason why the Paramount decree was put into place was so that all production houses had an equal shot at bringing their movies to the public. 

The decision of the US Department of Justice is something they concluded on because the decree was deemed to “no longer serve the public interest,” this in relation to the rise of streaming services as well as other changes in the industry. 

They claim that the change is big enough now that they would be remiss if they “pretend that business of film distribution and exhibition remains the same as it was 80 years ago.” In short, they are convinced that things have simply changed. 

The decision of the US Department of Justice is something they concluded on because the decree was deemed to “no longer serve the public interest,” this in relation to the rise of streaming services / Photo by: Cliff via Flickr

 

The biggest concerns that smaller production companies are decrying is that prohibitions such as “block booking” and “circuit dealing” will be reversed, making it nearly impossible for smaller studios to compete against companies who have enough money to make the two of those prohibitions happen once they are fully changed. 

Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim on Monday maintained that the decision was something important to the current film landscape we have now, saying that it’s only right they do this because the advent of streaming has allowed more Americans to watch movies wherever they wanted to either way. 

“Technological advancements, most recently subscription streaming services, have permitted more American consumers to watch movies anywhere they want at any time,” he said. 

Downsides for the Moviegoer and the Studios

Smaller studios will be the first casualty in this big shift, especially arthouse films that don’t churn out box office heavyweights by the dozen. According to Film School Rejects, a website discussing all things film, smaller production companies would either be forced to sell out under a bigger company or be forced to meet a “studio’s unreasonable demands in order to show their films.” 

On a halfway point here, the quality of movies will degrade, making it challenging to account for things like diversity in film once again. The assumption is -- at least going by Delrahim’s reasoning -- that the current make-up of the industry means that movie theaters, as a whole, would be considered obsolete. 

Most of the movies we have now already migrate from one streaming platform to another. But what Film School Rejects says is that just because the common consensus on streaming and streaming platforms skews insanely positive, doesn’t mean big companies like Amazon or Disney won’t swoop in and relive an era where studios owned theaters. 

Viewership will also likely change. According to Polygon, a gaming website also publishing news and other pop culture-related things, voices in the industry could be easily silenced because big production studios will only be bringing their own shows to audiences. 

Most of the movies we have now already migrate from one streaming platform to another / Photo by: Unruly Stowaway DotCom via Flickr

 

A time may come when all the diversity that’s been taken into consideration in recent films will suddenly peter out. Not to mention unions will probably pop up more than ever. 

Polygon writes, “More and more companies in Hollywood are reconsidering how individual writers, directors, and stars are paid for their work.” 

This kind of change will not only laugh in the face of what these workers -- from the Writers Guild of America to the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America -- have fought for since before the 50s. 

“A reversal of the Paramount Decrees would only pile on to existing, tumultuous industry changes; right now, the WGA is also litigating an antitrust lawsuit brought by the talent agencies,” adds Polygon.

The lowest employees on the rung will also get the short end of the stick in this situation, especially since they are caught on the whims of the studios and are often just expected to take it, as this has been the norm in the industry for the longest time, though anyone would say that it shouldn’t be. 

According to Polygon, “Studios can decide on a whim whether films will play in theaters or on streaming platforms without impact profit-sharing, labor concerns over fair employment practices and compensation could result in a multi-guild strike throughout Hollywood.”