Amazon is in the midst of a TV and movie spending spree, an apparent attempt to beat out streaming rivals like Netflix and Hulu by outbuying them. Amazon Studios has done deals with directors Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, Todd Solondz, and Terry Gilliam that will see their movies arrive on Amazon Prime, and has spent lavishly on its own range of original TV shows, including The Man in the High Castle. Most recently it landed the rights to Woody Allen's still-untitled next movie, in a deal that The Hollywood Reporter said today was worth $15 million upfront — an extravagantly expensive offer 15 times the amount Sony Pictures Classic paid for Allen's last movie.
Amazon is buying film credibility
There's no guarantee Allen's Amazon debut will be a commercial success — the director is particularly divisive figure, following on from sexual abuse allegations by his adoptive daughter, and his movies are hardly summer blockbusters at the best of times. But although it might not make a huge war chest, by spending over the odds to secure Allen's film, Amazon continues its campaign of spending big to earn indie legitimacy. By targeting visible auteurs like Jarmusch, Lee, and Allen, Amazon is making a calculated play toward cultured film buffs who may not be subscribed to Prime Video, happily handing over $10 million to "difficult" movies like Manchester By The Sea, and giving the service a feather in its cap to make it stand out to Netflix in the process.
Netflix, like Amazon, has been throwing cash around to get the rights to smaller movies — the streaming service dropped $12 million for Sundance success Beasts of No Nation. But Amazon is perhaps having an easier time than its rival in making deals with established figures like Woody Allen because unlike Netflix, it's not demanding that their movies arrive on its service on the day and date of their release. Amazon has shown itself to be happy to let its purchased films have their standard theatrical releases before shifting them onto Prime Video. Netflix, on the other hand, has locked down movies like Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six, which wouldn't even try to get into the big theater chains.
Netflix wants movies available to stream when they hit theaters
Filmmakers like Adam Sandler and Woody Allen alike are likely enticed to streaming services because of their high offers, but they and their peers will also have seen what a Netflix or Amazon release can do for a smaller film. Despite a critical mauling, Sandler's Ridiculous Six scored the most streams ever for a title within 30 days of release, and Netflix's Beasts of No Nation got 3 million streaming views in the 10 days after it arrived on the service, millions more than might have watched it in theaters.
These successes may become less commonplace as streaming services fill up with original movies, but for now, faced with both bids and potential viewerships in the millions from Amazon and Netflix, the price is apparently right for filmmakers.