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Amazon Taking On Theatrical Window

19 Jan, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Prime Instant Video, unlike Netflix, will stream new movies from four weeks after their theatrical release

Amazon Jan. 19 announced it will begin production on, in addition to acquiring a slate of “Amazon Original Movies” earmarked for theatrical and streaming — the latter channel from four to eight weeks after the box office debut.

This is the first time Amazon Studios is entertaining movie productions after greenlighting several seasons of original TV shows and comedies.

The traditional theatrical studio release takes from 39 to 52 weeks to appear on subscription video services, such  as Prime Instant Video, Netflix and Hulu Plus. The theatrical window for titles from the new Amazon Original Movies unit would be 80% smaller at a minimum of four weeks.

Amazon Original Movies will be led by Ted Hope, who co-founded and ran production company Good Machine, which produced Academy Award-nominated films such as Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Hope has also won The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival with films American Splendor, The Brothers McMullen and What Happened Was ….

“We look forward to expanding our production efforts into feature films. Our goal is to create close to twelve movies a year with production starting later this year,” Roy Price, VP of Amazon Studios, said in a statement. “We hope this program will also benefit filmmakers, who too often struggle to mount fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience.”

Netflix, which has entered into separate movie co-production deals with The Weinstein Co. and comedian Adam Sandler, will debut Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend Aug. 28 on select Imax screens, in addition to making the sequel to the 2000 Oscar winner available the same day for streaming.

That strategy has brought the wrath of the theater operators who vow not to show The Green Legend on Imax screens under their purview. Theater operators contend the three-to-four month box office window is crucial to driving consumer awareness for studio releases.

Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos counters that the typical theatrical window is an antiquated business model that deprives consumers access to new movies on demand.

Sarandos said Sony Pictures' recent decision to simultaneously release controversial comedy The Interview on digital platforms and select theatrical screens proves a new distribution window reflecting changing technological and consumer behavior can work.

“I hope [The Interview was an] eye-opening for the industry,” Sarandos told the media earlier this month.

The National Association of Theater Owners estimated in a Jan. 16 column in its official publication that Sony could lose about $30 million on The Interview because the film was not widely released to theaters.

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