This week was a busy one for original content at the Big Two, with Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) greenlighting two pilots for full seasons from its third slate of candidates, and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) leaping into landmark original movie deals with comedian Adam Sandler and The Weinstein Company.
Two of Amazon's five pilots that debuted at the end of August, the thriller Hand of God and comedy Red Oaks, are on tap for full seasons after receiving positive customer reviews.
The number of greenlights is, so far, slimmer than Amazon's second pilot season back in February. Viewer feedback for that period resulted in six series being selected for full seasons. The first fruit of that selection, Transparent, debuted at the end of September with ten episodes. The remaining five series--Mozart in the Jungle, Bosch, The After, and kids series Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street and Wishenpoof!--will premiere in the coming months, Amazon said in a release.
Meantime, Sandler will produce and star in four original feature films that will debut on Netflix. Premiere dates have not yet been announced, nor have any studio partners.
The deal with Netflix likely won't affect relationships that Sandler and his company, Happy Madison Productions, have with Hollywood stalwarts like Sony Pictures, according to Variety's Brent Lang. The company is currently negotiating to renew a pact with Sony Pictures Television, and Sandler still has several years left on a deal to make feature films with Sony, including Hotel Transylvania 2 and possibly a third Grown Ups movie.
Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told The Hollywood Reporter that doing a movie deal with Sandler made sense from a data analysis perspective. "Very uniquely, he stands out for his global appeal to Netflix subscribers," he said. Sandler's movies "outperform" on Netflix compared to their box office results, and his movies "are very, very repeatable," he added.
Sarandos also said the movies' budgets will fall into the "same size and scope" as Sandler's theatrical releases, which are typically produced in the $40 million to $80 million range.
It isn't the only original feature encroaching on movie theaters' turf. A few days earlier, Netflix inked a deal with The Weinstein Company that will see the sequel Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend premiere simultaneously on Netflix and in IMAX theaters nationwide. The move quickly drew howls of protest from theater owners, who are encouraging theaters to boycott the film.
Sarandos downplayed theater owners' reaction in the interview, saying, "The real result will be what happens on August 28 [when Crouching Tiger 2 is released]."
Additionally, Netflix announced another original children's series, Kong - King of the Apes, working with Avi Arad, who has produced blockbuster film franchises like the Iron Man and X-Men series. The 12-episode CGI series will premiere in 2016 with a full-length feature film.
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