Amazon Studios announced today that it will join the film industry.
Amazon Original Movies plans to produce and acquire original films, which they will release in theaters, and then make available for streaming on Amazon Prime four to eight weeks after each film's theatrical premiere (much sooner than the current average of 39-52 weeks between theatrical release date and streaming availability.)
It sounds like Amazon Original Movies will focus on films that may or may not have otherwise been produced independently. Roy Rice, Vice President of Amazon Studios, hopes the program will benefit filmmakers, who "too often struggle to mount fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience." The company's choice for division head also points to a focus on films aiming for critical acclaim, rather than traditional box office success. Amazon Original Movies creative development will be led by Ted Hope, who previously co-founded and ran Good Machine, a production company whose films received numerous Academy Award and BAFTA nominations.
The announcement follows two big Golden Globes wins for Amazon Studios' Transparent, for Best Actor in a Television Comedy and Best Comedy Series. Key competitor, Netflix, earned nominations in seven major categories, and took home one Golden Globe, for Best Actor in a Television Drama. Industry recognition, from awards nominations and wins, demonstrates the growing credibility of content produced by web-based companies, fueling a cultural movement toward replacing costly cable subscriptions with memberships to streaming sites.
As Amazon and similar companies move further into content production, I expect to see their credibility and membership grow exponentially over the next few years. Amazon Original Movies is slated to deliver about 12 films a year, with production starting later in 2015. If they can meet this lofty goal, the next few years could bring significant, lasting changes to the way films are produced.