Amazon Studios might be better known for TV shows, but Amazon revealed firm plans today to enter the cinema realm by producing and acquiring “original movies for theatrical release and early window distribution on Amazon Prime Instant Video,” the company said in a press release.
This is a big move from Amazon, as it seeks to narrow the theatrical release window to between four and eight weeks. It can often take up to a year for films to land on subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, however they do typically land on DVD/Blu-ray within around four months.
Production for the aptly titled “Amazon Original Movies” program will kick off in 2015, and plans are afoot to create around a dozen original titles for release in cinemas each year.
Last week we reported that both Amazon and Netflix had shone at the Golden Globes, proof that original content is finally coming of age. Amazon walked away with top TV comedy award for Transparent, the first online series to win a Golden Globe. Jeffrey Tambor also scooped a gong for best comedy actor for the show.
Elsewhere, Kevin Spacey emerged triumphant at the Golden Globes, securing the top actor (drama) award for House of Cards — a Netflix production.
Amazon also just signed up Hollywood legend Woody Allen for his first foray into TV, where he’ll write and direct a new series of half-hour episodes.
There are many more examples showing that streaming companies are turning to original content to gain an advantage in an increasingly competitive space.
With this latest move, not only is Amazon ramping up its original content efforts, it’s also giving the public more reasons to sign up for its $99/year Prime subscription service.
Launched way back in 2005, Amazon Prime was typically all about the free two-day shipping, but it has been throwing ever-more incentives into the mix in recent years, and it now includes Prime Instant Video. This gives users unlimited access to a decent selection of movies and TV shows on demand, similar to Netflix.
Subscribers can also now access the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which lets them borrow one e-book each month, an ad-free music-streaming service, unlimited cloud storage for photos, same-day shipping, and even a one-hour delivery service.
With first dibs on new movies as little as four weeks after they first debut in movie theaters, this is yet another massive incentive for would-be Prime subscribers.
However, Amazon isn’t the first such company to focus on movie theaters.
Back in September we reported that the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sequel will stream on Netflix the same day it debuts in cinemas later this year. And over in Britain, local satellite broadcaster Sky made history last year when it broadcast a film the same day it hit movie theaters.
There is a growing push against the traditional theatrical release window, with many arguing that in an age with PCs, smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and 24/7 Internet connectivity, there is no need for cinemas to have exclusive access to movies.
But it’s interesting that Amazon is embracing movie theaters — it still sees value in them. Instead, it’s chipping away at the exclusivity window, a sign, perhaps, of where Amazon would like things to go across the board. It doesn’t want to kill cinemas, it just wants to make things move much quicker.