EXCLUSIVE: Amazon Studios is making its first big move into film acquisitions by acquiring domestic rights to Elvis & Nixon for close to $4 million. Deal is in the advanced stages of closing. Amazon will team up with Bleecker Street, who will handle the film’s release. The film will have a theatrical bow as part of the deal, which was negotiated by CAA and producer Cassian Elwes.
While the other non-linear giant Netflix has been ramping up its acquisitions, most recently announcing it would fully finance the Brad Pitt-starring War Machine directed by David Michod, the Elvis & Nixon deal would rep Amazon’s first major buy. Significantly, Amazon will follow a more traditional model, teaming with other distribs such as Bleecker Street to combine a theatrical element along with harnessing the power of Amazon’s vast global online platform.
Elvis & Nixon centers on the historic 1970 meeting between King and the president that famously yielded one of the more curious White House photo ops in pop culture history. The film is directed by Liza Johnson (Hateship Loveship, Return) and stars Michael Shannon as the legendary hip shaker and Kevin Spacey, this time playing a real U.S. President. The Butler’s Cassian Elwes is producing with Cary Elwes and Holly Wiersma. Byron Wetzel is exec producing alongside Tim Smith and Paul Brett for Prescience, which backed the project, and Johnny Mac, Dave Hansen, Laura Rister, Rob Barnum and Jason Micalef. Bloom’s Alex Walton and Ken Kao is handling international.
Amazon said in January that indie veteran Ted Hope would be leading the company’s fledgling film unit Amazon Studios. Since then, Amazon’s entry into the film biz has been eagerly anticipated by many. Whereas Netflix has developed a model of paying producers up to 130% of a film’s budget to buy out all rights worldwide, Amazon’s model appears to follow a more traditional independent structure. With talk of a war chest of up to $200 million to finance films, the company is reputedly looking for edgy, awards-friendly fare and will continue to offer producers the opportunity for upside should a film pop at the box office. The Elvis & Nixon deal will likely be the first in a long line of acquisitions and original productions to come.