Amazon.com Inc is making a high-stakes foray into the challenging realm of independent movies, the latest step in its attempt to move beyond simply distributing digital entertainment content to creating it.
Amazon said on Monday it was aiming to produce close to 12 movies a year for theatrical release which would then be available on its Prime video service within two months, significantly faster than the roughly one-year wait it normally faces to stream Hollywood releases.
Amazon expects to focus on "indie" movies with budgets of between $5 million and $25 million, spokeswoman Sally Fouts said. While modest compared with Hollywood blockbusters, the move will add to already hefty spending at Amazon, potentially unnerving investors concerned about the company's lack of profitability.
Such films have proved challenging even for major Hollywood studios such as Paramount and Warner Brothers, which have bowed out of the business in recent years, said Jeff Bock, Box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations.
"It's a tough, tough racket to play consistently," he said, pointing to the difficulty of getting good content and the competition for quality productions at festivals like Sundance.
The move shows Amazon's growing ambitions in digital media, coming just days after the online retailer signed director Woody Allen to create a TV series and one of its existing series won a Golden Globe Award, a first for Internet TV services.
Unlike rival Netflix Inc, a standalone Internet TV service, Amazon's Prime video service comes bundled with the Internet retailer's two-day delivery for items purchased on the site, which costs $99 a year, a key driver of revenue for the company.
'SPECIALIZED FILM VIBE'
It remains unclear whether Amazon believes the movie business can make money on its own, but most of its other ventures are ultimately aimed at bolstering its underlying retail business.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is known for his hunger to tackle new markets but the company has had a mixed track record, as with the recent Amazon Fire phone, whose price tag it has slashed after weak sales.