Paramount Decree found dead as Sony buys Alamo Drafthouse

We knew AMC releasing The Eras Tour was a disaster in the making

Paramount Decree found dead as Sony buys Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse
Photo: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Once considered a monopolistic business practice that prevented healthy competition in movie distribution and exhibition, movie studios are again buying movie theaters. Thanks to a 2020 decision that welcomed the idea of studios being in charge of production, distribution, and exhibition, Sony has purchased Alamo Drafthouse, Variety reports. It’s not a moment too soon for Alamo’s previous warm and inviting owners, Altamont Capital Partners and Fortress Investment Group, which sold the theater chain after months of union-busting efforts against its beleaguered staff. The dine-in theater chain, which popularized noisy screenings thanks to its patented meal service, will be run by the newly established Sony Pictures Experiences, a subsidiary we assume will only grow whenever they make another Ghostbusters sequel.

Alamo Drafthouse has been in dire straits since being purchased by private equity firm Altamont Capital. As its workforce attempted to organize over low pay, inconsistent schedules, workers’ compensation for on-the-job injury (all that crouching and serving is no joke on backs, knees, and shoulders), and understaffed locations, the company set about busting organizing efforts and refused to recognize the union. Even when movie theaters were making money amid the Barbenheimer explosion, Altamont, like many predatory equity firms, refused to improve their business and treat their workers with respect. Now we seem to know why: they were looking to sell the chain off.

Alamo Drafthouse made millions. We got a t-shirt.

Until 2020, movie studios owning theaters was a thing of the past; after all, it would mean studios controlling production, distribution, and exhibition. The 1948 Paramount Decree barred studios from owning theaters for just that reason. In the Reagan ‘80s, when regulations like this began to relax, Loews movie theaters were owned by an array of operators with conflicts of interest, including Coca-Cola, Tri-Star Pictures, and, yup, Sony. AMC and Cineplex eventually purchased the chain in the 2000s. In 2020, a federal judge formally killed the ruling because it was determined that antitrust laws are strong enough to prevent bad behavior. Anyway, three years later, AMC exclusively distributed and exhibited Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour to the tune of $180 million domestically, simply because Swift’s father, former stock broker Scott Swift, worked out a deal with AMC CEO Adam Aron personally.

Swift explained how her father broke this antitrust dam with a simple phone call. “My dad just said, ‘Why does there have to be a—for lack of a better word—middleman?’ My dad, he will call people. He’s been doing this since I was born,” Swift said, per TIME. “My dad is the friendliest man in the world. He’ll meet someone in an airport lounge in 1972 and still talk to him every week now.”AMC netted 43% of the profits from the film, which was quite a bit of cheddar for the theater chain.

The good news is that when Kraven The Hunter finally arrives in theaters, Sony can make sure it plays on more screens than their competitors’ movies because they own the screen. It’s a whole new world of monopolistic possibilities brought to us by, who else, Taylor Swift’s dad. Just kidding. We can thank the Trump Justice Department for its masterful deregulating abilities.

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