As debates between theatrical vs. straight-to-streaming film releases rage on, Amazon is reportedly betting big on the big screen. According to a new report from Bloomberg, the tech giant will begin investing more than $1 billion per year into producing movies for theaters.
The report caused a major rise in stocks for several exhibitor chains: Cinemark (CNK) shares jumped 13 percent to $13.82, AMC Theatres (AMC) stock increased 5 percent to $7.64, and Imax (IMAX) stock rose 9 percent to $15.78.
Bloomberg says Amazon is planning a new theatrical strategy in which they will release 12 to 15 movies annually in cinemas, a number on par with major studios like Paramount or Universal Pictures. That strategy, they wrote, will begin next year, with the number of releases increasing over time.
A person with knowledge of Amazon’s plans told IndieWire that the company’s number of films will not sniff a dozen in 2o23. The person also pointed to old statements about MGM’s continued commitment to theatrical as making up the lion’s share of Bloomberg’s reported slate size, both in terms of number of movies and overall investment.
By the end of this year, MGM will have released seven movies theatrically. In other words, don’t plan to watch one Amazon Studios movie per month from the comfort of a red recliner — unless you happen to have one of those in your living room. Our source could not (or would not) confirm the $1 billion figure.
Bloomberg’s story comes after the company acquired the Hollywood studio MGM in a $8.5 billion deal finalized this March. MGM owns several major film franchises, most notably James Bond and “Rocky” — this year, it released “Thirteen Lives,” “Bones and All,” and “Three Thousand Years of Longing.” MGM’s film studio under Amazon is currently without a top executive: Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke is searching for a replacement for Michael DeLuca and Pam Abdy, both of whom left Amazon for the top film job at Warner Bros. Discovery following Amazon’s MGM acquisition.
The reported Amazon strategy would mark the biggest investment a tech company has put into theatrical films in recent memory, even if it’s mostly just MGM continuing to do what MGM does. Many streamers — particularly Netflix — tend to keep their original films exclusive to their services, only giving a choice few limited releases in select theaters in order to qualify for Oscars and other awards. Netflix released “Glass Onion,” a sequel to the highly successful “Knives Out,” this Wednesday in over 600 U.S. theaters, but the film will only stay in cinemas for a week before premiering on streaming next month.
Amazon has not released nearly as many original films on its Prime Video service as Netflix does, putting out only a couple dozen per year. (Add to that the ones on Freevee, Amazon’s new FAST service that’s been getting into the holiday-movie spirit.) Compare that with Netflix, which regularly releases close to 100. That said, the massive online retailer has invested in acquiring projects at film festivals through its Amazon Studios division, regularly giving these films hefty theatrical runs. Some of their most successful films include Oscar winner “Manchester by the Sea,” “The Big Sick,” and last year’s “Being the Ricardos.”