Jason Ropell, VP Worldwide Motion Pictures at Amazon Studios, told CinemaCon attendees during the streaming service’s afternoon luncheon that the company believes “in the theatrical window fully for our releases.”
“I have a very vivid memory of being here last year at CinemaCon … our team was brand new,” he said. “We had one movie … and now we have released 15 films. Last year we promised to be one of your key suppliers and … we stayed true. We believe in the theatrical window fully for our releases.”
He added: “Our Amazon Prime customers want to see great movies, and great movies play in theaters.” The exhibition attendees gave the executive a rousing round of applause.
The issue of PVOD and shrinking the theatrical window has been much talked about in meetings and in hallways during the annual convention for the exhibition industry.
Last year, head of marketing and distribution Bob Berney introduced the company’s slate at this confab, and this year he returned. “Last year we showed the big scene from Manchester By The Sea with Casey (Affleck) and Michelle (Williams). It shows the strong desire for audiences to experience the film in theaters where the managers, owners and staff care about their customers,” said Berney. Again to great applause.
This year, Amazon comes to CinemaCon with Oscar wins under its belt with Manchester for Affleck and Best Foreign Film in The Salesman.
The highlights of its slate this year clearly are Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying, which will be dated for the fall, and the Judd Apatow comedy The Big Sick, which was introduced through a hilarious stand-up at the podium with the film’s stars (and true husband-wife writing team) Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon.
Linklater’s film is about a band of “brothers” — former military men played by Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne. A short clip showed Fishburne’s character (who become a preacher) giving an impassioned sermon from the pulpit when Cranston and Carell walk into the back of the church. Surprised to see their friend is now a man of the cloth, Cranston’s character says, “Oh my f*cking God!” They slip into pews before Fishburne spots them and asks them to stand and introduce themselves and then he finds out they are his former comrades in the Marines. The audience loved the film clip and broke out in sustained applause.
Other films Berney talked about were the drama Crown Heights which drops in the fall; and Brad’s Status, Mike White’s a dramedy that stars Ben Stiller, Michael Sheen and Jenna Fischer (a small clip followed which got some laughs). Also, The Only Living Boy In New York, starring Jeff Bridges and Kate Beckinsale (a small clip was shown to applause — this crowd clearly has a soft spot for Bridges); and Woody Allen’s The Wonder Wheel, though there was no footage. It stars Justin Timberlake and Kate Winslet.
Berney also talked about two new theatrical documentaries. City Of Ghosts from Matthew Heineman premiered at Sundance and follows a band of activists journalists in Syria who battle ISIS. Generation Wealth is about the influence of affluence in America. Debuting in the fall, Berney said of the latter, “It couldn’t be more timely.” He then referenced the world of the Kardashians and President Donald Trump.
Short film clips also came from Wonderstruck from FilmNation Entertainment before Nanjiani and Gordon of The Big Sick stole the show.
Titles in production for 2017 and 2018 include an untitled Nash Edgerton film with David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried; Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote project which stars Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce; and Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, from Gus Van Sant and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill and Rooney Mara. It also has Annette also starring Driver, Beautiful Boy also with Carell, Suspiria, You Were Never Really Here starring Phoenix and Peterloo from Mike Leigh.
Right before the audience got a look at Amazon’s sizzle reel, they handed out candy and used a blow gun to shoot T-shirts out to members of the audience.