Amazon Reportedly Interested In Buying Landmark Theatres, Potentially Testing Decades-Old Laws

It’s truly a strange time for the film distribution industry. While theaters had their day in the sun for decades, being the premier location to catch all the best in film entertainment, over the half-decade those same theaters have been struggling to stay open. With the rise of streaming services and their seemingly bottomless reserves of cash, we are fast approaching a time when premier content will be first seen online than on the big screen.

However, with the industry in a state of flux, disruptors like MoviePass have come out to try to goose the theater industry, with subscriptions services. As we know now, that’s easier said than done. But another company is going to attempt to rescue the theater distribution model and it’s from an unlikely, and potentially illegal, source — Amazon.

According to a report by Bloomberg, the massive tech company Amazon is interested in purchasing Landmark Theatres. The relatively small, prestige movie theater chain operates 50 theaters in 27 markets, including some of the biggest cities in the country. Perhaps even more important than one massive company buying another is the far-reaching implications the sale might signal.

First, if Amazon purchases its own theater chain, we could be looking at a new business model for the distribution of film content. Amazon, which produces its own high-quality, award-winning features, could find themselves limiting the release of its films to Landmarks. This also means that the studio’s films would automatically be eligible for awards consideration, without needing an expensive theatrical run. Also, and this is pure speculation, Amazon could use its Prime subscription service as a way to allow customers to gain access to Landmark with free, or more likely discounted tickets. Think MoviePass, but from Amazon and only good at Landmark theaters.

But the real lasting impact could be the precedent set by this deal. Since the 1940s, there’s been a law made by the government, dubbed the Paramount Pictures decrees, that says studios are not allowed to own theaters. However, just last month, the US government said that those laws might actually not be enforceable any longer since there were no “sunset provisions” in the original rulings. This means that Amazon could test those laws, bringing them under examination for the first time in 70 years. And who knows what would happen if Amazon were to win and those laws were overturned.

Overall, as we reported when Netflix was said to be interested in its own chain of theaters, the industry is due for a change, and it looks like that change is coming in a big and incredibly lasting way. We’ll just have to see what’s left after everything is all said and done.