True baron cohen Must be going a little crazy. It was August 2020, the epidemic was raging and its covert production ceased. He was scheduled to re-surprise his role as Borat in a feature film designed to satirize the Trump administration before the November election.
He first convinced Universal Studios and allowed him to buy his unfinished film. Then he stitched together an hour of footage. (The infamous scene with Rudolf W. Giuliani was not yet filmed.) Hulu was interested. So was Netflix. But Amazon Studios was most committed to completing the film on time, no matter the cost.
Amazon spent $ 80 million to acquire “Borat Upward Movement,” A decision that bears additional expenses due to test screening in the Kovid Protocol, New Zealand – one of the few places in the world at the time where the company could gather a group of people in a darkened movie theater – and water in the last moments. Split Include all Gonzo footage before the film’s release on October 23. (Mr. Cohen was cutting it closely, yet he had to shoot three weeks in advance for the film’s delivery.)
“He broke every rule for us,” Mr. Cohen said in a phone interview. “There was a definite delivery schedule that they felt was necessary, and they halved that time. They realized the inevitability of putting it out before the election. And they completed their processes to help us do that. Kind of changed. I’m really very grateful. “
Jennifer SalkeThe heads of Amazon Studios are also grateful. When the Golden Globes air on Sunday, the “Barat submission movement” will compete for three awards: Best Comedy or Musical, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Maria Baklova) is. Other Amazon acquisitions, including the direction of Regina King “One Night in Miami,” And “Sound of Metal,” starring Riz Ahmed, Are also competing for awards.
Those accolades, coupled with the cultural impact “Borat” has enjoyed around the world, have significantly changed the perception of the film division of Amazon Studios in Hollywood and among Amazon’s more than 150 million Prime customers. (The studio, which did not disclose viewership, only a million subscribers said that “Borat” would be seen) once indie darlings like “Manchester by the Sea” and “The Big Sick”, one for Amazon Prime Video House. Is transforming itself into a niche for commercial films with a wide appeal that can travel internationally. This is part of Ms. Salke’s plan to turn Prime into a service in which people subscribe to more than free shipping for their paper towels.
David Ellison, chief executive of Skydance Media and creator of Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” series, said, “When we first saw how Amazon falls behind a piece of content, how big of a muscle it would have been is.” He recently sold movies like “Without Remor” and “The Tomorrow War” to Amazon. “‘With Borat,’ they showed that they can do the same with films,” he said.
Amazon has gained in the last year, with profits rising some 200 percent since the epidemic began. That success has boosted his film business. Like other streaming services, it has been able to snag big-budget, star-driven films that studios have been forced to respond to in the closing of studio theaters.
Netflix, Apple, Disney + and Hulu have all benefited from the studio’s havoc, but Amazon has been one of the most aggressive in getting new movies.
In September, Ms. Salke acquired “Without Remorse” starring Michael B. Jordan and based on the Tom Clancy series – for $ 105 million. It will debut in late April. The following month, it paid $ 125 million for the rights “2 Coming to America,” Will premiere on March 5. Eddie Murphy was initially hesitant to take the sequel to his much-loved film for Amazon, but Ms. Salke and others say he was convinced of the performance of “Borat”.
In January, the company made its biggest bet, paying $ 200 million to acquire the Chris Pratt-led action film “The Tum War”, which was set to release Paramount. To date, it ranks as Amazon’s largest financial commitment in acquiring a feature film. The company hopes to debut on Prime Video in the summer of this year.
“We don’t have a huge bench of big blockbuster movies in the works,” Ms. Salke said with a laugh. “So it was opportunistic for us to lean into it.”
With more players joining the streaming player (Paramount +, anyone?), The speed with which new content is delivered is an issue that every service worries about. Netflix threw down the gauntlet in January when it Announced Its 2021 strategy to deliver one new film per week, including Warner’s Bros. 2021 theatrical films after WarnerMedia’s announcement. First entry In theaters and at the same time on its HBO Max streaming service. Both of those companies are offering a lot of volume with Disney Recent announcement At least 80 percent of its 100 new projects will be slated for Disney +, the only way to compete is to grow up.
“It’s going to be really interesting in the next three years,” said Roeig Sutherland, head of media finance for the Creative Artists Agency. “With a new film set to stage in a week, it is promoting a competitive market for high-level, independently financed films.”
At the Sundance Film Festival last month, Apple gave a record $ 25 million for the rights to the independent film “Koda”.
Ms. Salke emphasized the idea that her plan to broaden her offering was a reaction to her competitors. Instead, she said, it is the culmination of a strategy launched at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival when, as a budding actress in the film world, she spent $ 46 million to acquire four films, including Emma Thompson and Mindy “Late Night” is included with Kalinga, and the well-known film “Britney Run a Marathon.”
Prior to joining Amazon, Ms. Salke spent her career in television, performing hits such as “Modern Family” and “Glee” and “This Is Us” at NBCUniversal. After her Sundance shopping, she was mocked by some film insiders as an out-of-touch television executive for her acquisition of niche films.
She was criticized for paying $ 13 million for “Late Night” when she grossed $ 15.4 million at the box office. “Britney Run a Marathon” grossed only $ 7 million. That comment still seems to sting Ms. Salke, though she argues that she only released theatrical films to please the filmmakers. The real metric of the films success, he said, was how they played on the streaming service.
Referring to the performance of the films on Amazon Prime, Ms. Salke said, “All those films kept appearing as No.1″. “Every time we launch one, the next one will eclipse the next. We were training our audience to know that we would have larger original films that were more commercial on Prime Video. This is a small ‘if you make it, they will come’ strategy. ”
But what happens to that plan after the epidemic is over and studios are not willing to sell their films on streaming platforms?
Amazon has some 34 films in various stages of production worldwide and Ms. Salke said the company was committed to spending up to $ 100 million on production. (Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, is stepping down as the company’s chief executive later this year, but the studio hope not Any major changes when Andy Jessie takes over the reins.) The Culver City, California., Complex is still being built and, if anything, investment has increased. Ms. Salke tells of Lucy and Desi Arnaz in Aaron Sorkin’s upcoming film, starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, which was a potential hit. There is also George Clooney’s film “The Tender Bar” starring Ben Affleck and “My Policeman”, an LGBTQ romantic drama called Harry Styles and Emma Corinne (“The Crown”).
“The new news is that you will see that we are taking forward some big projects which are self-built,” he said.
In Ms. Salke’s mind, this was always the place where Amazon was going to film. And there is a renewed confidence in her approach as she celebrates her third anniversary as the head of the studio. In addition to her recent acquisitions, she has made overall content deals with Mr. Jordan and actor and musician Donald Glover, which she says will reinforce her mission to ignite Amazon’s reputation as a talent-friendly niche. With its healthy membership base, Amazon is attracting people in Hollywood who are interested in the company’s global reach, but are also curious about the company’s other businesses that extend a star’s brand beyond film and television Have the ability to do.
Mr. Jordan, for one, said his overall content deal would allow him to explore areas where other studios cannot offer: especially fashion, music and podcasts. His example was Alexa’s physical avatar of Amazon during a Super Bowl advertisement.
And Ms. Raja got a kick in Amazon’s marketing of her film whenever she logged into the company’s e-commerce site.
“When I buy a Doggie Bag, on Amazon, and my film pops up on top, it’s pretty amazing,” she said. “It’s like that, wow! Every single day I’m getting a text from someone who saw the film that I might not have seen if it didn’t come in their shopping queue.”