Amazon is already a major film studio now but they obviously want more and in an interview with Variety Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke laid out exactly how they’re going to do that, which starts with a goal of releasing 30 movies annually. That’s a lot of movies, but industry folks probably care more about the fact that Amazon is also looking to limit their theatrical release windows, debut films on Amazon, and even skip theatrical release altogether.
“You’ll see less of the three-month window, and you’ll see different variations. Even through Sundance, I learned a lot about just how flexible we can be with those models, and they really vary. In some cases, it’ll be important for us to get the movie quickly to the service, while still following through with a theatrical release that feels much shorter, two weeks even, two to eight weeks. And then in other cases, we’ll allow, where it makes sense, a wider release strategy.”
The films skipping theatrical release are from two production partners. Amazon is working with Blumhouse to develop eight thrillers that will go straight to the service with no theatrical release. They’re also partnering with Nicole Kidman to make a “slate of sexy, date-night movies that no one’s making any more, like No Way Out or Cruel Intentions.” Honestly, these all sound like the kind of movies that would be direct to TV back in the day so I can see why Amazon would be dropping them directly to the service. I doubt we’ll see much push back from the theater industry on this since it’s not the type of movie they’d be releasing anyway. That kind of outrage is saved for the bigger films, which Amazon seems to still be partially playing ball on, unlike Netflix, who still only begrudgingly does theatrical releases for awards.
The world of streaming companies turning into major entertainment powerhouses is pretty new so it should come as no surprise that studios like Netflix and Amazon are kind of feeling out how they want to approach traditional cinematic releases. Netflix was taking the approach that their films didn’t need any sort of theatrical release, but this past year it relented with Roma ditching their day-and-date rule, and it has paid off in spades with a massive awards haul (including our own). Amazon, on the other hand, has been releasing their films in theaters since the get-go but obviously they though that needed to change in many ways.
Where does this leave theaters? Probably impotently yelling at these studios for a few more years before they’re forced to acquiesce to this new industry standard. Netflix and the other streaming studios are going to win this war if they haven’t already. They’re making more and more content at the level of the major studios, and with Disney dropping Disney+ soon the theaters are going to have the biggest entertainment giant in the world starting to wonder why they have to adhere to rules. Trust me, once Disney realizes that they can drop a Marvel film day-and-date without some terrible consequence this entire battle will be over.
There’s some other great tidbits in there as well if you’re looking, like the fact that they’re keeping the Lord of the Rings TV series writers under lock and key at the moment so nothing leaks out. Also, some mad shade at awards shows in general. Saaaaaaalt.