Netflix has steadily been edging from making its own TV shows to its own movies, and now Amazon Studios is jumping into the ring with a new project starring Kevin Spacey. Variety reports that the company is finalizing a deal to pick up Elvis & Nixon, Liza Johnson's film that features Spacey as the titular president, and Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Man of Steel) as the sideburned singer. The two icons met somewhat infamously at the White House in 1970.
Rather than angering theater owners by trying to release the film online at the same time it hits theaters, Amazon will reportedly be holding back, partnering with New York-based distribution company Bleecker Street to release the film theatrically before it comes to Amazon. It's a smart bit of strategy considering the issues Netflix has run into.
Amazon is staying away from Netflix's problems
Starting with its sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Netflix has raised the ire of theater chains who don't want to collapse the theatrical window — that time when movies live only in theaters, before VOD, streaming services, and physical media kick in. The compromise the company has found thus far is to make movies that simply go straight to Netflix (its new Adam Sandler films and the latest sequel to Pee-wee's Big Adventure), or to pick up prestige films that will require only a very limited theatrical run for awards consideration (the Brad Pitt movie War Machine; Cary Fukunaga's Beasts of No Nation).
Under Amazon's strategy, nothing about modern movie distribution is actually being disrupted — but it gets the company in the game in a big way, and establishes Amazon Studios as a brand associated with prestige-worthy films. With Amazon having recently signed up to work with Terry Gilliam as well, it's clear that the company is looking to attain the critical acclaim in movies it recently grabbed in television with Transparent.