Amazon is one step closer to competing head-to-head with Hollywood studios

Wonder wheel amazon studiosAmazon StudiosWoody Allen’s ‘Wonder Wheel’ will be Amazon Studios’ first movie it will release theatrically on their own.

On the heels of winning three Academy Awards earlier this year, Amazon Studios has revealed a new component to its business model that moves it one step further from its main competition, Netflix.

In a story on the company in Variety on Thursday, the streaming giant revealed that beginning with the December release of its latest Woody Allen movie, “Wonder Wheel,” it will theatrically self-distribute its titles for now on.

In the past, Amazon has hired out independent distributors like Lionsgate, Roadside Attractions, and Bleecker Street to handle the complex theatrical release and marketing of its titles. Then Amazon would take over when it came to streaming. But now it will all be done in house.

This move shows Hollywood — and particularly the directors and stars Amazon wants to attract to production deals — that it doesn’t need any hand-holding during any facet of the moviemaking or release process.

“It represents the final stages of the evolution of our strategy,” Jason Ropell, worldwide head of Amazon’s motion picture group, said. “It completes the picture in terms of our ability to control a film from its inception to how it comes to customers.”

Amazon Studios’ marketing and distribution is run by industry veteran Bob Berney, whose career highlights include overseeing the releases of indie classics like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” and “The Passion of the Christ,” to recent hits like “Insidious” and “Drive.” Recently Berney has beefed up his team to 40 people, quadruple what it was a year ago, according to the trade.

Along with Ropell, Berney, and head of Amazon Studios, Roy Price, the company also has veteran producer Ted Hope as its production chief. Like Berney, Hope is another pillar of the 1990s/early 2000s indie film world, with a filmography that includes landmark titles “The Ice Storm,” “Happiness,” and “21 Grams.”

With these minds at the helm, Amazon Studios has gone the more traditional theatrical route with its titles compared to Netflix’s rogue simultaneous theatrical and streaming releases. While Netflix has become Enemy No. 1 with theatre chains because of its model, Amazon has been accepted.

Manchester by the sea amazon studiosAmazon Studios‘Manchester By the Sea’ took home two Oscars for Amazon earlier this year.

That has led to major names wanting to work with Amazon — from Woody Allen to Spike Lee — and the company getting Oscar wins for “Manchester By the Sea” (best lead actor, screenplay) and “The Salesman” (best foreign language film).

“I think that our approach is working,” Berney told Variety. “It enhances and incentivizes artists globally, and that encourages filmmakers to come work with us.”

Berney also brushed off previous comments by Netflix brass about Amazon, like Ted Sarandos’ comments last month when he said about Amazon’s theatrical model: “I don’t understand why perpetuating a model that feels more and more disconnected with the population is good.”

“They can take their swipes, but it’s more about showing that our model is actually working,” Berney said. “We’ve done that.”

Along with “Wonder Wheel,” Amazon also has coming out later this year the Ben Stiller dramedy “Brad’s Status,” and Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying,” starring Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, and Laurence Fishburne.

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