Justice Department Decision Could Threaten Small-Town Movie Thea - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

U.S. Justice Department Decision Could Threaten Small-Town Movie Theater

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DAGSBORO, Del.- The Clayton Theatre recently celebrated its 70th anniversary, but an unexpected threat would bring changes to this town staple. 

The Clayton Theatre first opened in the 1940's. The theater is a single-screen first run theater that seats 350 people and serves fresh popcorn daily. The Clayton Theatre is the only movie theater in Sussex County, besides the Movies at Midway in Rehoboth Beach. 

Joanne Howe, the owner of Clayton Theatre, bought the theater in 2000 with her husband. Although her husband passed away seven years ago, she continues to run the theater, happy to serve the community. 

Last week, the U.S. Justice Department moved to terminate the Paramount Consent Decrees, the agreement that has long governed the separation of Hollywood studios from movie theaters. The Paramount Consent Decrees was created in an antitrust case that decided the fate of film studios owning their own theaters and holding exclusivity rights on which theaters would show their movies.

Courts will review the U.S. Justice Department’s arguments and make a decision whether studios can pull their movies from theaters like the Clayton. 

"It doesn't sound like a good thing. I'm hoping I have a good enough rapport with the studios, having been in the business for 20 years, that we will be able to avoid some of that. I just really don't know how it's going to play out. We're just going to have to see," said Howe. 

Small-town theaters saw a significant decrease in sales when streaming services were on the rise. Howe said people will go to the theater to get out of their house and see their neighbors. 

"There is something to be said about sitting in a movie theater with a lot of people and watching a film together, and sharing a laugh or tear. It's a fun atmosphere to be in," said Howe. 

The Justice Department and Makan Delrahim, head of its antitrust division, decided the decrees “have served their purpose."

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