In a potentially telling move about Amazon’s future direction, the company is also collapsing the intended theatrical window for the ballooning disaster film. Instead of a traditional theatrical release, including a previously agreed one-week Imax commitment, the film will get a short stateside theatrical release via Amazon, then will launch on Amazon Prime Video on December 20 in what we hear is a bid to maximize in-home holiday eyeballs.
We gather the significant change to the release plan was taken in concert with the film’s stars and producers. The partnership with Imax on the movie is now up in the air, however, despite key action sequences being designed with Imax viewers in mind.
FilmNation sold the movie to a string of international buyers who plan to release the film later this year. We hear Amazon is working through their new plans with these distributors.
Amazon is pursuing a similar model with upcoming drama The Report, but we hear that the model won’t necessarily be the norm for the company on all prestige titles going forward. Insiders tell us each film will be evaluated on their merits and will have a tailored release model. The upcoming pic Brittany Runs a Marathon will have a standard theatrical release, for example. However, it’s clear that theatrical is becoming a more fluid element within Amazon’s plans.
Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke explained the rationale behind the release changes to us, “The Aeronauts is a spectacular film featuring some of Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne’s finest work. The level of filmmaking is nothing short of a technical feat that transports you to another world high up in the clouds. The theatrical experience is an important part of our business, but our highest priority is our customers.”
She continued, “We know The Aeronauts is a film Amazon Prime Video customers will want access to as soon as possible, and is the perfect example of high-level, quality filmmaking customers can expect from us both in theaters and on Prime. Considering how competitive it has become to capture audiences’ attention and how audiences are consuming their entertainment, we believe this is the best choice for the film and that we’re delivering our customers an epic film that we believe will be a major player in the awards conversation at the height of awards season.”
The Tom Harper-directed movie has been widely tipped to debut at a major fall festival. Our sources indicate Telluride is currently in the plans, not least due to the higher presence of Academy voters at the Rocky Mountain fest.
Set in 1862, The Aeronauts follows wealthy young widow Amelia Wren (Jones) and headstrong scientist James Glaisher (Redmayne) as they mount a balloon expedition to fly higher than anyone in history. It’s a journey to the edge of the then-known world, where the air is thin and the chances of survival are slim.
Pic is written by Jack Thorne and directed and produced by Harper. Mandeville Films’ Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman also produce. Richard Hewitt and Thorne are executive producers.
Additional cast include Tom Courtenay (45 Years), Anne Reid (The Last Tango in Halifax), Rebecca Front (The Thick of It), Vincent Perez (Riviera), Tim McInnerny (Peterloo), Phoebe Fox (Eye in the Sky) and Himesh Patel (Yesterday).
It has been a testing couple of months for Amazon, which splashed big at Sundance this year on a handful of movies. One of them was Late Night, which disappointed this summer at the box office in what was likely a chastening experience. Also, the division’s inaugural marketing and distribution chief Bob Berney stepped down last month. The industry has long-speculated about how long the company will remain wedded to the theatrical experience in the face of growing competition from rival streamers.
Amazon’s upcoming film slate also includes the Kristen Stewart-Jean Seberg movie Against All Enemies, which has been widely tipped to debut at Venice, and Radioactive, which was among movies announced for Toronto today.