Amazon plans films with quick Web release

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Amazon dives into film — and you’ll see it soon.

After winning acclaim for one of its original television productions, Amazon announced Monday that it would produce and acquire films for theatrical release and early distribution on its Prime Instant Video service. Amazon has taken a big step forward into the world of Hollywood, with plans to create 12 feature films a year that will be released first in movie theaters and then, weeks later, streamed to customers online.

Amazon original movies will be available for US streaming four to eight weeks after they make their debut in theaters, a significant reduction of the window of 39 to 52 weeks that films normally play in theaters before becoming available for streaming. Our goal is to create close to 12 movies a year with production starting later this year.” Price added that the move will not only be beneficial for Amazon customers, “but we hope this program will also benefit filmmakers, who too often struggle to mount fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience.” The studio, which launched in 2010, has become known for original TV series such as Transparent, Tumble Leaf, Mozart in the Jungle and Alpha House. Amazon Studios is fresh off the success of series “Transparent” at the Golden Globes, winning best comedy, and its deal with Woody Allen to produce a new streaming series — accomplishments that have drawn comparisons to online giant Netflix. The development is another step in Amazon’s ambitious plan to increase its entertainment offering to consumers, and an escalation in Amazon’s rivalry with Netflix. It also signals both companies’ broader ambition to revolutionize the so-called windowing system for TV and movies in the traditional entertainment industry.

To spearhead the movie project, Amazon has hired indie-flick producer Ted Hope, whose Good Machine has cranked out hits like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Eat Drink Man Woman,” and “Safe.” Film budgets will range between $5 million and $25 million — modest compared with Hollywood blockbusters whose budgets can soar above $100 million, Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts said. Both online firms have become stronger rivals to Hollywood studios and television networks, with their growth in subscribers and ability to fund dozens of new projects.

Still, it threatens to worsen Chief Executive Bezos’ tense relationship with Wall Street, which has grown increasingly vexed over his heavy spending that has spurred big losses in recent quarters. It makes the earlier distribution on Amazon’s home delivery service, opposed by theater owners, “an easier pill to swallow,” he says. “Maybe this is the way to bridge this distribution gap,” says Bock. “It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Analysts cautioned that if the films were low-budget and of low quality, it would be difficult for them to profoundly alter the conventional system for theatrical releases. Right now, they are another player in a tough marketplace.” The original movies initiative will be led by indie-film veteran Ted Hope, who co-founded and ran Good Machine, the production company behind Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger.

Still, said Rich Greenfield, a media analyst with BTIG Research, the announcement adds to the pressure on traditional business models and gives consumers more of what they want. “In 2015, consumers don’t understand why there is an exceedingly wide gap between seeing a movie in a theater or seeing a movie at home,” he said. Monday’s news comes one week after Amazon’s original series “Transparent,” a dark comedy about a family in which the father comes out as transgender, won a Golden Globe for television comedy. When Sony Pictures Entertainment’s released “The Interview” last month in theaters and online at the same time, the theater-owners group said the studio probably didn’t make up for the cost of the film because it only played in a small number of theaters. Price said that the film projects would not go through the same pilot process as its television series, where the company decides whether to go forward with projects partly based on viewer feedback. “Though a lot of the attention in the industry and press has been focused recently on television series, and it is indeed a new golden era in television, we think the death of film has been greatly exaggerated and films can and will continue to be a vital, brilliant and unique part of culture in America and throughout the world,” Price said in the e-mail.

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