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Roy Price on Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Amazon Studios’ New Structure

Amazon Studios head Roy Price said that a reorganization announced this week was driven by the need to “coordinate globally,” as he expanded his area of oversight beyond original content production to licensing and acquisitions.

“The reason it is helpful is to coordinate licensed activities and original activities so they are serving the same ends,” Price said at the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Entertainment Industry Conference on Friday. “I think it is important to coordinate globally because more and more deals these days are cross regional or global in nature.”

As part of the reorganization, the studio’s lead licensing exec for the European region, Jason Ropell, will become head of global movies; Ted Hope, who joined as head of film production in January, now reports to Ropell. Brad Beale assumes responsibility for all licensing, and reports to Price.

Price received the Chamber’s Commitment to California Award, and then participated in a Q&A with Variety‘s executive editor of television, Debra Birnbaum.

He said that 2016 will be “our biggest year yet,” with at least one new show debuting per month, as well as Amazon Studios’ movies. Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” he said, “will be one of the very interesting films of the fall” when it debuts in theaters on Dec. 4. He said that they began talking about the project, which adapts the Greek play “Lysistrata” to modern-day Chicago, at the Sundance Film Festival.

“What we want to do on the movie side is do movies that are visionary films from visionary directors,” he said.

He said that Amazon’s movies will have a “robust” theatrical but “will not necessarily be day and date” with its debut on the streaming service.

“If customers perceive that it is a theatrical movie, then it is more legit and exciting and different,” he said. “I think many filmmakers want their film to be available that way. Of course the best way to see if a film is if you can capture it in theaters.”

He didn’t have much to say about the way that Netflix released “Beasts of No Nation” in October, debuting it on the same day on its streaming service as it opened in theaters.

“I don’t really know anything about it because I don’t have a lot of data on how that all works,” he said. “It is interesting to see, but I don’t have any conclusions from it.”

Among the shows on Amazon’s slate are one from David E. Kelley with Billy Bob Thornton and William Hurt, to debut next year, and another from Woody Allen, which Price said he expects to debut in 2016.

“We have high expectations. Woody expressed a lot of concerns in the development process, and that was very reassuring,” Price said, drawing laughs from the audience. “I was worried for a minute when I met him that he had become a very happy and well-adjusted person.”

He said the question of whether Amazon would release a show once a week was “a real conundrum/Rubik’s cube.” He cited the case of when they released three episodes of a show and then rest once a week, before switching to all at once.

“The perception was that if you are releasing a few then once a week was that we were hoarding the episodes and making artificial scarcity or something,” he said. “And so people think you are releasing a show sooner if you release it all at once.”

As for how Amazon Studios chooses shows, he said that they face the on-demand challenge of not having the lead-in that traditional networks do.

“You have to look for those things that are going to inspire, [that] ‘so if you don’t like this show, maybe we shouldn’t be friends’ kind of passion,” Price said.

Variety co-sponsored the event at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.

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