Friday, June 14, 2024

Sony Has Bought the Alamo Drafthouse and It Makes Me Nervous

Once upon a time, we had the Paramount Decree. That made it illegal for film production companies/studios to own movie theaters because then they'd be controlling the production, distribution, and exhibition of movies. It was an antitrust measure put in place in 1948 by the Supreme Court. It was weakened during the Reagan era (he truly was one of the worst Presidents ever) and in 2020 was completely struck down. Now, Sony has bought out the Alamo Drafthouse chain of movie theaters.

The idea of Sony buying this chain of movie theaters is that it can allow them to emphasize their catalog of properties they own, such as promoting a lot more anime in theaters thanks to their acquisition of Crunchyroll (America's largest legal way to stream anime) in 2021. Even with promises made this will add to the moviegoing experience it still makes me nervous. What's to stop Sony from prioritizing one of their flicks by offering it at a discounted price exclusively at the theaters they own? What if they chose to do something like only releasing certain limited-run flicks they've created at Alamo Drafthouse to optimize profit on an otherwise potentially less-popular movie? Sony, obviously, doesn't own a huge number of movie theaters so this isn't some kind of theater monopoly, but they carved out a little chunk for themselves that can be used to test various ideas, some better and more ethical than others. I worries me a bit, and I think it should concern you at least somewhat too. 

Whenever a smaller entity gets bought out by a bigger one there are always promises of how very little will change and things will mostly stay the same. That's what Funko said when they bought out Mondo before butchering it. That's what Amazon said before dismantling Comixology. Those are just two recent examples and the list obviously goes on. I feel a bit ill at ease with Sony buying the Alamo Drafthouse brand of theaters. I'm not freaking out, but I'm cautious. I guess we'll see what happens.

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