Amazon is already on a roll with its original series, most notably Transparent. And now, it will be adding original movies to the mix with Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, which is scheduled to debut in theaters (yes, real movie theaters!) later this year, reports Variety.
The plan for distribution of Amazon’s flicks, including this inaugural one, is interesting: the movies will get a limited run in theaters, then be available exclusively via streaming to Amazon Prime members.
Amazon says it plans to launch 12 movies each year, budgeting about $5-25 million for each, along with, of course, continuing to develop original series. Several big-wigs have already been tapped to work on this burgeoning side of the business: Ted Hope, known as an indie producer, heads up Amazon’s newly-created film division, and Bob Berney, formerly the CEO of indie film distributor Picturehouse, has been appointed Head of Theatrical Distribution and Marketing.
This means a lot of eyes will be on Chi-Raq as the first indication of what Amazon can truly do in the movie space. And it takes on a pretty serious topic, covering gun violence in inner-city Chicago, specifically the Englewood neighborhood. So much so, in fact, tha Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, has commented about what he calls the movie title’s inaccurate perception of Chicago as a “war zone:” Chi-Raq, which is actually just the working title of the film, is a play on “Iraq.”
But Lee is no slouch in the movie biz. Hope calls the long-time director “one of the most visionary filmmakers of our time.” Lee will write along with Kevin Willmott and direct; and the film will feature some big Hollywood names, including Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, John Cusack, and Samuel L. Jackson. It was filmed on location from June 1 through to July 9, during which time, Lee notes in a recent Instagram post, the city saw 331 people shot and wounded and 69 murdered.
Chi-Raq is scheduled to debut some time later this year.