In a surprising move, Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, a unique and beloved theater chain that delivers one of the best possible movie-going experiences.

As reported in Bloomberg, this deal “reinforces SPE’s long-held commitment to theatrical exhibition and continued initiatives in experiential entertainment,” said Sony.

Despite overall theatrical numbers being down, Alamo Drafthouse was crushing it. They experienced a significant boost in 2023, with box office revenue surging 30 percent compared to the previous year. This impressive growth outpaced the overall North American market, which saw a 20 percent increase in box office revenue, according to ComScore.

Sony is committed to theatrical; they don't have a streamer, so they're still focusing on bringing movies to people. Alamo delivers maybe the best theatrical experience out there, with a 'no phones' policy and lots of other amenities.

Still, many people are wondering if it's actually legal for a movie studio to acquire a theater chain. If you remember, back in 2020, the Paramount decrees ended. So, this may be the first domino to fall when it comes to a return to vertical integration.

What's vertical integration?

In Hollywood, vertical integration refers to a studio owning multiple levels of the movie-making process, from production to distribution and exhibition. Historically, this was common practice during the "Golden Age of Hollywood" (1920s-1950s).

Sony, owning their own theater, falls under this category. They could just use Alamo theaters to only show their movies and force others out.

There is currently no documented plan for that, and no changes to the Alamo have been announced, but we'll keep our eyes on this story.