DOJ Asks Court to End Paramount Decrees

The Justice Department has made it official, filing a motion with a district court to terminate the Paramount consent decrees, which prevent movie studios from owning theater chains, block booking (bundling films for sale to distributors), and more. 

It is asking the court for a two-year transition period for the block booking and circuit dealing (entering into a single license to cover all theaters in a theater circuit) decrees.  

Related: DOJ to Terminate Paramount Consent Decrees 

The Decrees are just a few of the 1,300 legacy judgments--this one dating from 1948--that the Justice Department is reviewing to see whether they should remain. 

Antitrust chief Makan Delrahim had signaled earlier in the week that DOJ wanted the decrees to end given the changing market for content distribution, including streaming, echoing that sentiment in announcing the motion Friday (Nov. 22). 

“The Paramount decrees long ago ended the horizontal conspiracy among movie companies in the 1930s and ‘40s and undid the effects of that conspiracy on the marketplace,” said Delrahim, assistant attorney of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “The Division has concluded that these decrees have served their purpose, and their continued existence may actually harm American consumers by standing in the way of innovative business models for the exhibition of America’s great creative films.” 

"New technology has created many different movie platforms that did not exist when the decrees were entered into, including cable and broadcast television, DVDs, and the Internet through movie streaming and download services," said Justice. 

The Paramount decrees, like other legacy antitrust judgments, have no sunset provisions. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.