Amazon Studios is getting into the movie business, announcing Monday that it will begin to produce and acquire original movies for theatrical release and early window distribution on Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Amazon's films won't be released day-and-date in theaters and online, instead planning to make its original movies available on its subscription-based Prime Instant Video streaming service in the U.S. four to eight weeks after their theatrical debuts. Production is set to begin this year with the goal of bringing customers a dozen original prestige movies each year.
"We look forward to expanding our production efforts into feature films. Our goal is to create close to 12 movies a year, with production starting later this year," Amazon Studios vp Roy Price said in a statement. "Not only will we bring Prime Instant Video customers exciting, unique and exclusive films soon after a movie's theatrical run, but we hope this program will also benefit filmmakers, who too often struggle to mount fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience."
Amazon Original Movies will focus on unique stories, voices and characters from up-and-coming creators. The division's creative development will be headed up by former Good Machine co-founder Ted Hope, whose production company was behind films such as Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which Amazon competitor Netflix recently announced plans to make a sequel to that would be available on its streaming service the same day it hits Imax theaters. Hope, a veteran indie film producer, most recently served as CEO of Fandor, the subscription-based online streaming service that specializes in independent movies and foreign films. He had previously served as executive director of the San Francisco Film Society.
"Audiences already recognize that Amazon has raised the bar with productions in the episodic realm, tackling bold material in unique ways and collaborating with top talent, both established and emerging. To help carry the torch into the feature film world for such an innovative company is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility," Hope said in a statement. "Amazon Original Movies will be synonymous with films that amaze, excite and move our fans, wherever customers watch. I am incredibly thrilled to be part of this."
Netflix also has announced plans to make four movies with Adam Sandler, which will debut exclusively on Netflix.
Amazon Studios' critically acclaimed original series Transparent recently won two Golden Globes, and the company is producing TV series with Steven Soderbergh, Carlton Cuse, Ridley Scott and Woody Allen.
Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos previously told The Hollywood Reporter that the streaming service is looking to make 10 to 14 movies a year, similar to Amazon's planned output of 12 films a year.
Netflix's announcement that it was making a movie to debut in theaters and on its streaming service simultaneously led to a swift backlash from exhibitors, with giants Regal, AMC Theatres and Cinemark saying they wouldn't show the film on their own Imax screens.
Although Amazon Studios has primarily focused on TV, the division has long had movies in mind. The studio, which was started in 2010, began accepting user-submitted feature screenplays early on and by 2012 said it had received more than 10,000 scripts. Over the summer Price told The Hollywood Reporter that Amazon Studios had about 30 film projects in development, although none had yet gone to production.
Natalie Jarvey contributed to this report.