Amazon’s Bob Berney At CinemaCon: “All Films We Are Acquiring Will Be Released Theatrically”

Earlier today Amazon saw five of its films included in the Official Selection for the Cannes Film Festival, so execs had plenty to crow about at the company’s CinemaCon luncheon. Head of marketing and distribution Bob Berney beamed about Amazon’s upcoming date with the Croisette, including Woody Allen’s Cafe Society — for which it paid eight figures — being named as the opening film. “We’re going to be testing in-theater drone activity for popcorn delivery,” he quipped. Berney added, to great cheers throughout the ballroom, “All films we are acquiring are being released theatrically to play in your theaters.”

Said Amazon Studios head Roy Price: “Customers want to see films in theaters, and filmmakers want their films in theaters. We are a filmmaker-driven studio. ll our films will have traditional theatrical windows.” That also drew big cheers at Caesars Palace’s Octavius Ballroom, which was filled to the brim.

Berney tubthumped Elvis & Nixonwhich is going out via Bleecker Street Media on April 22 following its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows Michael Shannon as the King and Kevin Spacey as President Richard Nixon, and the high jinks that follow their meeting when the president makes him Elvis an undercover rock ‘n’ roller. Also shown was Amazon’s hysterical trailer to Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship, which it is putting out through Roadside Attractions on May 13. Saw this at Sundance; Kate Beckinsale is very sharp in this Jane Austen feature adaptation. Complete Unknown is being released via IFC later this summer.

Berney showed an emotional scene from Manchester by the Sea of Michelle Williams in a crushing performance, as she apologizes and sobs to Casey Affleck. Brilliant. “It like Ordinary People and Kramer vs. Kramer,” said Berney. The pic opens Nov. 18 through Roadside.

There also was a quick clip of Jesse Eisenberg doing his best Woody Allen in Cafe Society as he stammers to a worried blonde.

Amazon showed itself to be a formidable player at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, snapping up rights to Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea for $10M, Todd Solondz’s Weiner-Dog and the documentary Gleason among its six pickups. The Author: J.T. Leroy, also a Sundance acquisition, is going out on July 29 via Magnolia. The film questions what is art as it follows the controversial author and her doppelganger. Also, former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, who has ALS, recorded a message for exhibs telling them about Clay Tweel’s film, and how they never sought to make a movie but simply record footage for his son. Warm applause here. July 15 is the release date with Open Road Films. In addition, Amazon has two pics in production, one of which, American Express, is from Nash Edgerton’s, brother of Joel. It’s shooting in Mexico with Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried. Todd Haynes is in production with Wonderstruck with Julianne Moore.

Amazon also has the Australian production The Dressmaker starring Kate Winslet. There’s also Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson starring Adam Driver as a New Jersey bus driver, which is headed to Cannes. His docu Gimmie Danger about Iggy and the Stooges is landing on the Croisette as well. Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is also in the Amazon fold, a perfect mix as Berney was his champion at Film District with Drive. Refn appeared today via Skype. “Hello, can you hear me? It’s like the moon landing. I’ve never been to Vegas, but this is the closest I’ll ever get,” said Refn. They shut the lights off in the ballroom for this clip of Elle Fanning, where she stands among a number of fashion-clad women in a mirrored area. Fanning took the stage to champion the film, which is “set in the fashion world in a heightened way. It has that horror classic element.”

“I never worked with a director who is amazing collaborator,” said Fanning. “He has a big board with each scene on Post-It notes. We shot in chronological order, which I’ve never done. We came up with the ending right there on the set. We asked the crew, ‘Hey, if you have a good idea.'”

Said Refn: “It’s like a painting. That’s the fun of fear. Fear creates creativity. This is a film that can be seen multiple times.”

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