Movie StudiosBy Tom Dougherty
Movie studios headed back to the 40s
If you needed any proof things in Hollywood are changing dramatically, look no further than Friday’s ruling by a federal judge that ends the Paramount Consent Decrees. Basically, it says movie studios can own movie theaters.
That may seem like a nothing burger. But, if you know your Hollywood history, it’s an earthquake. The original decree, handed down in 1948, said movie studios couldn’t own theaters, therefore eliminating the monopoly they held for nearly 30 years.
Yes, the Golden Age of Hollywood came to an end with that ruling. Before, the studios owned everything. And I mean everything. The talent, who often signed long-term contracts with one studio, and the theaters themselves were subjects of movie moguls like Louis B Meyer, Jack Warner, Adolph Zucker, Darryl Zanuck, Carl Laemmle and Harry Cohn.
They controlled everything from casting to production to promotion to distribution, and anything in between. Inspiring fear among everyone else. The 1948 ruling came because basically the six movie studios controlled everything like a Five Families of the New York mafia. Old Hollywood came to an end, and the studios broke up.
Movie studios will own everything – again
Now, not so much. The judge says the impact of streaming TV is making movie theaters less important, now facing increased competition from other outlets. Even the movie theaters themselves are getting into the streaming game.
The shockwaves from the ruling were immediate. The stock prices of theater companies rose sharply, and the movie studios fired their chiefs like it was Armageddon. Replacing them with Silicon Valley types they figure are more able to fight the Netflixes of the world.
What does that mean for viewers like me and you? More consolidation, like you saw with Warner Communications buying HBO, Disney purchasing Hulu and Fox, and so on. It will lead to less choice for us. The little guys are getting snapped up, and the remaining little niche movie studios will have fewer places to show their wares.
In a sense, we’re right back where we were when Greta Garbo and Cary Grant ruled the silver screen. Already, streaming services sign deals with creators and actors that aren’t exclusive yet. But they will be.
Meyer, Warner and all the others would be pleased. The movie – or streaming – moguls are back.
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