Following Netflix’s path into film distribution, Amazon has acquired Elvis & Nixon as its first major original feature. Amazon Studios nabbed the film, which delves into the historic 1970 meeting between Elvis Presley and former president Richard Nixon, for “close to $4 million” according to Deadline. Unlike its streaming competitor, Amazon will release the film exclusively in theaters before it is accessible for on-demand streaming through Amazon Prime Instant Video.
The Liza Johnson film is a significant pickup for Amazon as it begins to expand its film unit, Amazon Studios. The film features Kevin Spacey as Nixon and Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire, Man of Steel) as “The King.” Cassian Elwes (The Butler), Cary Elwes, and Holly Wiersma will produce the film.
Amazon will be partnering with distribution company Bleecker Street for a theatrical release four to eight weeks before the film premieres on Amazon’s streaming video service. Preserving that theatrical window — the time between a movie’s release and it’s availability through video on demand (VOD) services — will make sure that Amazon doesn’t run into the same problems Netflix has during its quest to enter the movie business. Netflix’s plan to release movies like the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Idris Elba’s Beasts of No Nation in theaters and on its streaming service simultaneously caused major theater chains to boycott the films.
Amazon has thus far stayed clear of such confrontation. It is worth noting, though, that Amazon’s proposed theatrical window is smaller than the current average of around 13 to 17 weeks after release in cinemas.
Amazon Studios’ first major film offering is undoubtedly a sign of many more to come as the company has put aside $200 million to finance new films, and has plans to release as many as 12 films per year. Amazon recently tied up deals with filmmakers Terry Gilliam and Jim Jarmusch, notably bringing Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to light after 20 years in development.
Deadline has said that Amazon is looking for “edgy, awards-friendly fare,” which sounds right in line with Netflix’s film strategy. The competitor has slated prestigious films like Brad Pitt’s War Machine and Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation this year. It remains to be seen whether Amazon will also pick up mainstream fare like Netflix’s acquisions of the Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and its series of Adam Sandler films.