Amazon just acquired all North American rights to Woody Allen’s next untitled picture in what marks a split from his Sony Pictures Classics partner of seven years. What did it take for Woody Allen to split ties with SPC? Perhaps, money? Sources said that the Amazon deal is in line with the Sundance Birth of A Nation acquisition which Netflix offered $20M for and ultimately ended up over at Fox Searchlight for $17.5M. This one is said to be under that but still an eight-figure deal.
Under terms of the deal, Amazon will open the film this summer with a traditional, nationwide theatrical release. Following its theatrical run, it will become available exclusively to Prime members through Prime Video. Amazon was active at Sundance with acquisitions, and they need a co-partner to co-release in theaters.
No word on which distributor that will be but sources told Deadline that it will not be going through SPC who have released the last seven Allen films.
The deal with Amazon marks an expanded relationship between the on-line retailer turned producer and the filmmaker. Allen is currently writing and directing an untitled six-episode television series for Amazon starring himself, Elaine May, and Miley Cyrus. It is executive produced by Erika Aronson, produced by Helen Robin, and begins shooting next month.
How wide the theatrical release of the newly acquired period romantic comedy will get remains to be seen, but there are said to be guarantees in place with Allen to give him a similar theatrical run that he enjoyed in his relationship with SPC. At Amazon, Bob Berney and his crew will oversee the theatrical distribution of the yet, untitled film.
“We have always been exceptionally pleased working with Michael Barker and Tom Bernard at SPC,” said Aronson. “Amazon made us an offer that we couldn’t refuse, and we have a responsibility to our investors. Woody wishes that SPC could be the sub-distributer for this film but apparently they would not. It’s their policy to not do that. We certainly look forward to working with them again in the future.”
SPC produced and released the director’s films since 2009, probably the most critically-acclaimed of those was Blue Jasmine which earned Allen an Oscar nom and Cate Blanchett a win. Others included Midnight in Paris and Magic in the Moonlight. Of the seven titles, Blue Jasmine ended up with the widest release with 1,283 theaters after platforming. The film earned $33.4M domestically and $97.5M worldwide. The average gross, however, for most of the director’s films is $13.7M with an opening weekend (mind you, they usually platform) for wide releases of $2.8M.
This new film, which was shot last summer on location in New York and Los Angeles, is set in the 1930s and stars Jeannie Berlin, Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll, and Ken Stott. Allen’s sister and longtime collaborator, Letty Aronson, is producing, along with Steve Tenenbaum and Edward Walson. Executive producers are Ronald L. Chez, Adam B. Stern, and Marc I. Stern.
Previously Amazon released Spike Lee’s anti-violence film Chi-Raq in 305 theaters at its widest run. That film ultimately grossed $2.6M after its run. It was their first feature production and their first time out at bat distributing theatrically. Chi-Raq ran in the theaters for 30 days in theater and then landed on Amazon Prime on Feb. 4th. That was the first feature title in their library.
Allen’s film will be platformed and then rolled out, similar to what SPC did, we hear.
They have a number of films upcoming, including Creative Control (due in March), Elvis and Nixon (in the Spring) starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey, Love and Friendship (in May) from director Whit Stillman. The Allen film is one of 12 films that Amazon will release this year as the company starts to grow its own library of titles. For each title, Amazon partners with a theatrical distributor. For instance, Love and Friendship will go through Roadside Attractions, however, the Amazon team is actively involved in the decision-making of how to distribute each picture.
“Woody Allen is a brilliant filmmaker,” said Roy Price, Head of Amazon Studios. “We’re so proud to be in business with him for both his next film and his first ever TV series.”
The film deal was negotiated by John Burnham and Jessica Lacy of ICM Partners, Erika Aronson of Taborlake, and Loeb & Loeb on behalf of the filmmakers.