Will Biden Block the Sony-Alamo Deal?

joe biden Merrick Garland
Right now, as Sony acquires Alamo, the notion of a major regulatory shake-up—like dismantling Disney+—feels like a galaxy far, far away. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Eriq Gardner
June 18, 2024

The news that Sony Pictures is acquiring Alamo Drafthouse predictably led to plenty of hot takes and hand-wringing regarding how Sony was allowed to buy up the boutique movie theater chain. Yes, there used to be restrictions on how studios package movies for theaters—the so-called Paramount Consent Decrees, which resulted from a 1948 ruling that busted up the Hollywood studio system by forcing studios to sell their movie theaters. What the decrees didn’t do, contrary to the conventional wisdom around the Sony-Alamo deal, was ban the studios from ever owning movie theaters. Nevertheless, most coverage of the Alamo acquisition breezily asserted that Sony’s deal was only made possible by the lifting of the supposed ban in 2020. 

Of course, the “ban” has always been more fable than fact, up there with the notion that bats are blind or that the Great Wall of China is visible from space. In reality, Supreme Court Justice William Douglas ruled that the near-monopoly big studios exercised over movie distribution needed curbing, but nevertheless declared “We see no reason to place a ban on this type of ownership.”