Amazon's next stop: your local movie theater

The studio plans to produce 12 movies for theatrical release, then release them early on Prime

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
January 19, 2015
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Fresh off Amazon's historic wins at the Golden Globes earlier this month (not only was it the first time that the studio won any big awards for its original shows, but the first time that any Internet streaming service won an award for best series), the company is already back, and it has even bigger plans in mind.

With the conquering of television already underway, now Amazon is now looking to become the first Internet service to take over your movie theater as well. 

Amazon will begin to produce, and acquire, original movies for theatrical release, it was announced on Monday. They would also received early window distribution on Amazon Prime Instant Video; they would premiere only four to eight weeks  after debuting in theaters, as opposed to the 39 to 52 week it usually takes for movies to premiere on subscription video services.

Amazon Original Movies, as they will be called, will start production "later this year," according to a statement from Roy Price, Vice President of Amazon Studios. The studio wants to create roughly 12 movies a year, a pretty ambitious goal.

The company has put Ted Hope, co-founder of production company Good Machine, which produced Academy Award-nominated films such as Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in charge of the new division.

The movies will "focus on unique stories, voices, and characters from top and up-and-coming creators."

This is a really interesting development from Amazon; typically these Internet streaming services get movie stars to come down to their level, such as when Amazon recruited Woody Allen to write and direct his own show for the company earlier this month, rather than the other way around. 

Amazon is not the first Internet service to look into expanding to movie theaters, but it seems to have learned a lesson from when Netflix tried a similar plan last year.

Netflix got the rights to produce a sequel to the early 2000's martial arts hit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's plan was to release the film on its website, and in IMAX theaters, on the same day. The operators of the majority of those screens balked at the idea.

AMC, Regal and Cinemark, which together operate 247 of the 400 IMAX theaters in North America, said that they would refuse to show the film, which is set to come out in August of this year, voicing their opposition to the idea of having it released on-demand on the same day.

The shortened time between theatrical release and the release of movies on home video has become a contentious issue in Hollywood; its one of the reasons that theaters saw their lowest number of patrons in two decades (that and because most movies are simply terrible these days, but that's another story altogether). Will Amazon avoid the wrath of the movie theaters by waiting a month or two? That's still a pretty short window, and theater chains might still express some unhappiness by having it further chipped away.

Either way, this is a development that should only beg one question: could we one day see Amazon or Netflix win an Oscar? Honestly, stranger things have happened!

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