Online retail giant Amazon first got into the entertainment production game in 2010 with the launch of Amazon Studios, which would later go on to produce a number of TV show pilots and put them to the public vote to decide which should receive a full series order. Among the more successful shows was comedy drama Transparent, which stars Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman who decides late in life to come out to her three children. Transparent recently won two major Golden Globe Awards, and off the back of that success Amazon has announced the next step in its original content plans.
Amazon Instant Video, the company's streaming service, already offers a large number of movies for customers to rent and buy, but now Amazon plans to expand upon this by produce and acquire its own movies for theatrical release - offering early window distribution for those movies on Amazon Prime Instant Video just 4-8 weeks after their theatrical release.
Amazon Studios Vice President Roy Price said that the current plan is to produce twelve movies a year, and to begin producing them later in 2015, with an emphasis on finding "fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience." Creative development will be headed up by veteran independent film producer Ted Hope (Martha Marcy May Marlene), who pledged that, "Amazon Original Movies will be synonymous with films that amaze, excite, and move our fans."
This seems to be part of a larger shift that's been occurring in the industry as VOD services wrestle with theaters over the distribution of new releases. The Interview is a recent (if rather exceptional) example of this, since Sony managed to get around terror threats to theaters by simply releasing the film on VOD, a move that quickly pulled in over $15 million in digital sales. When it comes to independent films that only receive limited releases, making those films available on VOD simultaneously or a short while after their theatrical release could be a great way of helping them reach a wider audience.
Amazon Instant Video's competitor Netflix has been leading the charge when it comes to the production of original content for online release, gaining widespread acclaim for shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. It's probably no coincidence that Amazon's announcement comes in the wake of Netflix revealing that it will produce its first original feature film: a sequel to Ang Lee's 2000 martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
There's nothing wrong with a little rivalry, of course, and it will certainly be interesting to find out more about the films that Amazon intends to produce - and how they will navigate the bridge between theatrical and digital distribution.
Source: Amazon Studios
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