Amazon plans to create feature films, put them online weeks after theater release

Amazon plans to create feature films, put them online weeks after theater release

By Cecilia Kang January 19 at 11:25 AM

Amazon on Monday took 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, weeks later, streamed to customers.

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. Both streaming services, with their roots as technology firms, started first with original television series.

But, unlike Netflix, which is producing movies that will be released simultaneously online and in theaters, Amazon’s foray into feature films will follow the traditions of Hollywood’s delayed release into homes.

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.

Amazon Studios, which launched in 2010, said it will begin production of films later in the year with budgets of $5 million to $25 million per project. After theatrical release, the films will be exclusively provided to Amazon Prime Instant Video customers one to two months later.

“We look forward to expanding our production efforts into feature films,” said Roy Price, vice president of Amazon Studios. “Not only will we bring Prime Instant Video customers exciting, unique and exclusive films soon after a movie’s theatrical run, but we hope this program will also benefit filmmakers, who too often struggle to mount fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience.”

Amazon viewers will see the films much sooner than the typical cycle of releases to DVDs, cable on-demand and then to streaming service providers, Price said. The “windowing” of a typical film takes 39 to 52 weeks to reach Amazon or Netflix, he said.

Amazon announced that Ted Hope, who produced “Eat Drink Man Woman” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” will lead the feature-film effort as head of production for Amazon Original Movies.

“Audiences already recognize that Amazon has raised the bar with productions in the episodic realm, tackling bold material in unique ways and collaborating with top talent, both established and emerging,” Hope said. “To help carry the torch into the feature film world for such an innovative company is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility.”

(Amazon’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)

It is unclear whether theaters will be interested in showing Amazon’s films, particularly with their limited windows for exclusive showings in theaters. The National Association of Theatre Owners declined to comment.

Theater owners criticized Netflix’s plans to release “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Dragon” simultaneously online and in Imax theaters. When Sony Pictures Entertainment 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.

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