Amazon explores narrowed theatrical-release strategy, appoints indie veteran Hope to lead unit

Online retail giant and SVOD provider Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is dipping a toe in the traditional movie-release waters, announcing an original-movies program that will see its movies available via Prime Instant Video within four to eight weeks after their release on the big screen.

Production at Amazon Original Movies will begin sometime in 2015, with 12 "original, prestige" movies slated for release each year, the company said.

Amazon has appointed Ted Hope, co-founder of Good Machine--the production company behind Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Eat Drink Man Woman--as head of production. He will lead creative development at Amazon Original Movies.

Hope brings some notable achievements to Amazon. He has won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance more often than any other producer, and his films have received several Academy Award and BAFTA nominations.

But it's Amazon's foray into narrowed release windows that is of the most interest. The company's move seems targeted at competing with Netflix's (NASDAQ: NFLX) planned same-day release, on movie screens and on demand to its subscribers, of a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The Wall Street Journal's Greg Bensinger added that it's "a way to goose membership rolls for its $99-per-year Prime program" as well.

It's not known how movie theaters will react to Amazon's strategy; they didn't like Netflix announcing a same-day window for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, with Regal Entertainment Group refusing to release the film. But Sony's last-minute, simultaneous release of The Interview on VOD and in a few theaters last month after its hacking drama has provided the industry with a rough look at the possibilities for same-day release or shorter release windows.

For more:
- The Wall Street Journal has this story (sub. req.)
- see the release

Related articles:
Double whammy: Sony to release 'The Interview' on YouTube, other VOD outlets as well as in theaters
Netflix to distribute 'Crouching Tiger' sequel day-and-date with global IMAX release
Netflix's Sarandos: Quality content will keep subscribers coming in
Starz CEO: Premium channels are basically SVOD providers

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