Back in 2014, this site ran an in-depth piece about how the current Hollywood paradigm of “$200 million franchise play” or “$2 million indie movie” had led to a dearth of mid-budget movies for adults, and had left the filmmakers responsible for movies like that (people like Spike Lee, Jim Jarmsuch, and Terry Gilliam) out in the cold. (You can read it here). In that piece, we interviewed producer Ted Hope, who explained, “We had a deal at Universal, and finally our executive got fed up with us, and said ‘Ted, you need to give me movies that are theme park rides.’ We laugh, but I think now you see that more than ever, right?”
Not long after that interview, Mr. Hope was hired by Amazon Studios to produce and acquire movies for the multiuse platform, and after two years of bankrolling not only new projects by the likes of Lee, Jarmusch, and Gilliam, but successful festival acquisitions like The Big Sick and Manchester by the Sea, Amazon is reportedly planning to… cut back on indie movies.
Reuters is reporting Amazon “plans to shift resources from independent films to more commercial projects… Amazon expects to go after films with budgets in the $50 million range at the expense of indie projects costing around $5 million.” The move into “bigger-budget fare” follows this week’s announcement of the cancellation of One Mississippi, I Love Dick, and Jean-Claude Van Johnson by Amazon’s TV arm – which recently spent a mind-boggling $250 million just on the rights for a Lord of the Rings series.
It’s hard not to view Amazon’s thirst for a more “commercial” movie prospect as a response to Netflix’s success with Bright, which appears to have made a much bigger impact than their own attempts at prestige, awards-friendly moviemaking (Mudbound, The Meyerowitz Stories, and Okja have been depressingly absent from most of the year-end critics awards and Oscar bellwethers). And if neither Amazon nor Netflix are bringing their big checkbooks to Sundance this year, that could be very bad news for indie movies in general. But hey, maybe Hope can sell Amazon on a Paterson theme park ride?