Amazon Studios today announced what Deadline told our readers on January 7: that veteran independent producer Ted Hope would steer it into original feature film productions. Hope had been atop Fandor, and he left that post earlier this month.
The long-expected move by Amazon into this business comes after it took home two Golden Globes for its breakout series Transparent, and then made a programming deal with Woody Allen for a new series. In today’s press release, Amazon Studios said it will produce and acquire movies to be shown on the big screen before moving online on Amazon Prime. The plan will see Amazon producing up to a dozen movies a year to start with.
This development comes five months after Netflix declared that it would debut Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend as its first original movie. Co-produced with Harvey Weinstein, the sequel to the Ang Lee-helmed 2000 epic is set to premiere on the streaming service and in select IMAX theaters on August 28. Theater chains predictably lined up against this encroachment, as they desperately hold their ground on exclusivity windows to justify their brick-and-mortar investments, and protect the sanctity of pricey popcorn and $4 bottles of water.
In an essay about why day-and-date VOD doesn’t work, NATO went out of its way to point out that the VOD-centric release of The Interview lost $30 million for Sony Pictures, which turned to that platform when its holiday release plan was thrown into disarray by North Korean cyber-terrorists. It’s just the latest rock throwing between the establishment and the upstart: Netflix’s Ted Sarandos takes potshots whenever he is able. He also hired longtime Weinstein Company marketing head Stephen Bruno to help steer its feature fortunes, as Deadline was also first to reveal last fall.
Hope delivered his own broadside on the established theatrical business: “Whereas it typically takes 39 to 52 weeks for theatrical movies to premiere on subscription video services, Amazon Original Movies will premiere on Prime Instant Video in the U.S. just 4 to 8 weeks after their theatrical debut,” said the company this morning. To that end, Hope got the job as Head of Production for Amazon Original Movies. Before Fandor, he ran the San Francisco Film Society and prior to that had a number of producing gigs. He’s best known for forming Good Machine with James Schamus, a shingle that became a disruptive force in indie fare back then.
Said Hope: “Amazon Original Movies will be synonymous with films that amaze, excite, and move our fans, wherever customers watch.”
“We look forward to expanding our production efforts into feature films. Our goal is to create close to 12 movies a year with production starting later this year,” said Roy Price, VP Amazon Studios, in the statement today. “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.”