How Block Booking Facilitated Self-Enforcing Film Contracts
This paper uses the block-booking film exhibition contracts that were the subject of Paramount to examine the role of contract terms in facilitating self-enforcing relationships. Because of the large uncertainty in film value at the time of contracting, it is difficult to fully specify optimal exhibitor performance (such as exhibition run length) ex ante. Instead, the efficient contractual arrangement contractually overconstrains exhibitors and relies on the superior reputational capital of distributors to flexibly adjust contract terms ex post. The analysis illustrates that, rather than thinking of contracts as either court-enforced or self-enforced, transactors generally combine court-enforced and self-enforced sanctions by using contract terms to economize on their limited reputational capital. Block booking is explained within this framework by its effects on reducing the variance in the value of the film package and, therefore, the demands placed on the distributors' reputational capital. Copyright 2000 by the University of Chicago.
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