Amazon Studios’ Roy Price sat down for a keynote discussion at MIPTV in Cannes this evening and provided insight into how the streaming service bridges the divide between TV and cinema. “A new day has dawned,” said Price, “where when you’re in this hyper-competitive world of hundreds of thousands of shows and you really care about the Top 10 shows, you’ve got to go for it big time and you’ve got to get people who do things differently and bring something fresh and interesting. … You’ve got to look at everybody — film people, TV people.”
He cited such folks as Woody Allen, David O Russell, Jill Soloway, Morten Tyldum, Nicolas Winding Refn, Amy Sherman Palladino and many others as talent Amazon has worked with and said: “We think of it differently than traditional television, we call it Film-o-Vision. It’s television, but it should really strive to be bigger and better. Bigger doesn’t have to be dragons and spaceships — though it can be — but maybe it’s being more real and contemporary and moving and fresh, or maybe it’s bigger and cinematic in 4K HDR.”
He called the new landscape “an inspiring global challenge” and said “a lot of people are rising to the call from both sides of the aisle.”
Picking up the exhibition mantle from Amazon Studios’ Jason Ropell at CinemaCon last week, Price said: “I think customers appreciate the opportunity to see films in a cinema where you get a full theatrical experience, and we want to create that opportunity for customers. And also … a lot of people who became filmmakers they want people to have the opportunity to see their film as intended in the full experience.”
He added: “Whatever you may predict to happen six or seven years from now, theaters play an important role in the movie ecosystem now, so why not participate in that?” What’s more, customers see the cachet theatrical lends, Price opined. “Once the movie comes on the service having been in theaters, I think there is a perception that it’s a legit movie: It was reviewed, and it was in a theater — it’s like, a movie. It helps with customer perception, it helps with filmmakers, so we’re very supportive of the theatrical window.”
Although Price was here today for a TV market, it’s notable that Amazon last year bolted onto the Cannes Film Festival stage with several titles in official selection (this year, speculation says it’s tipped to be adding to that resumé with Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck among others). It also had a hand in Oscar winners Manchester By The Sea and The Salesman (a Cannes debut). The plan going forward, said Price, is to be doing about 15 movies a year “working with a lot of top filmmakers. Our goal is to produce movies and distribute movies that people really care about, talk about and that generate buzz; they stand the test of time. That would be the perfect Amazon Studios movie — oh and they win the Academy Award.”
On the TV side, Amazon is prepared to spend “a lot,” Price said. The Grand Tour, the pricey reincarnation of Jeremy Clarkson’s BBC cash cow, “is an expensive show but is well worth it. It’s actually efficient and good economics. In the subscription and VOD business, the thing that is going to make the most difference is a show that people are talking about and are really compelled to see. It generates its own publicity. People want to do a free trial because of this show, and Grand Tour brings all of that. … In pretty much all territories, the top two shows are The Grand Tour and The Man in the High Castle,” Price affirmed. Amazon Prime’s mega-global rollout was timed to The Grand Tour‘s launch.
Still, that doesn’t always help with what to greenlight. “You can look at what people watch, but you can’t be too deterministic about that because sometimes the show that is going to be a real game-changer is a rule-breaker and is not what people are watching today. The most important thing is to get artists absolutely at top of their game who are inspired and in their moment and are excited to do something new and empower them to do that.”
He added: “I’ve said in the past that development is very easy. It’s like putting together a fabulous dinner party of geniuses of people at the top of their game now; and I think that’s right. Now, with global expansion, it’s become sort of a bigger more fun multilingual party.”
The plan is to try to replicate the Amazon Studios mentality in Los Angeles around the world, Price said. Particular focus is on growing teams in India, Tokyo and London to lead an international originals effort — India and Japan being two of the biggest markets in the world for local fare.
But Amazon will continue to license. “We’re not going to develop every single one of the best shows in the world, particularly when your real focus is the crème de la crème. … Some of those are going to be developed by other people, so we’re very active with licenses and co-productions. … Our priority is getting the best show — and what the deal is, whether we invented it [and] whether it’s a license or a co-production is secondary. We’re pretty open-minded about that.”