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Why Amazon’s Move to the Big Screen Matters

Why Amazon's Move to the Big Screen Matters

Remember when Amazon launched Amazon Studios, a radical online approach to finding new screenwriters and filmmakers and developing movies, back in 2010? Inspired by the open source philosophy that yielded rich results for Silicon Valley innovators, Amazon Studios director Roy Price was working toward developing movies under a first-look deal with Warner Bros. and while nothing came of that initiative, he still believes in the crowdsourcing model.

Now he’s tweaking the movie model, bringing in former Fandor CEO and forward-thinking indie producer extraordinaire Ted Hope to head up Amazon Original Movies, expecting to produce 12 movies per year, which will premiere on Prime Instant Video in the US only four-to-eight weeks after their theatrical debut. Roy Price has said that “The movies in this program will be ‘indie’ movies. We will be looking for visionary creators who want to make original, unforgettable movies. We expect budgets to be between $5MM and $25MM.”

READ MORE: Ted Hope Q & A on Indie Film Memoir “Hope For Film” and Much More

Amazon is fast-becoming one of the key players in the streaming original content game — from winning Golden Globes for its transgressive comedy series “Transparent” to tapping auteurs Woody Allen, Whit Stillman, Steven Soderbergh and more to helm original series. “We think the death of film has been greatly exaggerated,” added Price, “and films can and will continue to be a vital, brilliant and unique part of culture in America and throughout the world. There is still a robust audience, certainly on Amazon, for interesting films. We believe we can help this kind of film find an audience and find a healthy business model where artists can get a good financial return for their efforts and actually maintain it as a career.”

But Amazon is also one of the most competitive names in the game. Their narrowing of the theatrical window, which regularly averages three to four months, will not only put pressure on other movie studios jockeying for eyeballs in a content-glutted market, but exhibitors too: is the four-to-eight-week gap between an Amazon film’s theatrical and VOD premiere enough to convince them to show these films?

Top exhibitors dug their heels after Netflix and The Weinstein Company co-partnered on the forthcoming day-and-date release of the “Crouching Tiger” sequel. Rival studios may be inspired to step up and match Amazon’s window, potentially giving exhibitors the short shrift once again.

And what of Amazon’s acquisitions efforts? We could see this company on the ground shopping titles as soon as Sundance.

Ted Hope produced the original “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” funnily enough, under his production arm Good Machine, which also produced Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm,” “Eat Drink Man Woman” and more. He is now head of production at Amazon Original Movies, promising that the new studio label “will be synonymous with films that amaze, excite, and move our fans, wherever customers watch.”

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