Amazon promises dozens of films as original-content war with Netflix heats up

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After taking home a couple of Golden Globe awards for television, Amazon is planning to bring original movies to theaters and to Amazon Prime.

Production will begin this year, with the goal of releasing 12 new “prestige” movies every year. The films will hit theaters first, and will land on Amazon Prime Instant Video four to eight weeks later, but there’s no word on when we’ll see the first batch.

Amazon also didn’t say anything about the films themselves, except to note that Ted Hope will run creative development. Hope’s production company, Good Machine, has produced films such as Eat Drink Man Woman and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (Oddly enough, a sequel to Crouching Tiger is being produced by Netflix.)

The story behind the story: By delaying its Prime launches by at least a month from the theatrical release, Amazon is taking a different approach than rival Netflix, whose upcoming original films will arrive in theaters and on the streaming service at the same time. While Netflix’s plan is obviously better for subscribers, it’s unlikely to get much support from major theater chains, who already plan to boycott the Crouching Tiger sequel.

Theater chains: friend or foe?

Amazon and Netflix have already developed a healthy rivalry in original television, with each service producing critically acclaimed original series. During last week’s Golden Globe ceremony, Amazon took home two awards for Transparent, while Netflix’s House of Cards came away with one.

But with films, the dynamics are different. Unlike a TV show, which can build buzz and a devoted following over the course of multiple seasons, movies are a one-time shot. Without theatrical releases and all the box office revenue that comes with them, it may be harder for Netflix or Amazon to market their original films.

That could explain why Amazon is willing to delay its movies on Prime. Theaters may be more likely to screen the films in the first place if they have a window of exclusivity, thereby building up hype that Amazon can convert into Prime memberships just a month or two later. While Netflix’s vision of day-and-date streaming and theatrical releases sounds alluring, the major chains seem determined to ensure that it isn't realistic.

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