Amazon Studios Takes Cannes ‘On Its Own Terms’

Amazon Studios rolled into Cannes with five major Festival titles: Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society,” Nicolas Winding Refn’s “The Neon Demon,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson” and his Iggy Pop documentary “Gimme Danger” and Park Chan-wook’s “The Handmaiden.” The presence of so many top contenders and high-profile auteur works from the streaming services was not lost on some Cannes observers, who’ve touted this as a “revolution,” a notion quickly dismissed by Cannes fest chief Thierry Fremaux as well as Jason Ropell, Amazon Studios’ worldwide head of motion pictures.

Ropell said Amazon was not coming to the South of France “looking to disrupt Cannes,” adding, “You have to approach Cannes on its own terms.” This includes, says Ropell, “the traditional elements of the business such as negotiations and meeting with filmmakers. The truth is, we are there pretty much like everyone else, competing in the existing eco-system.”

That “eco-system” is, in Ropell’s view, “the greatest launchpad in the world” and despite all the chatter about the marketplace disruptions caused by the streaming services’ arrival as major players, Ropell again points to the “traditional” aspects of Cannes, where he notes, “There’s no better platform than the films themselves.”

Popular on Variety

Though Ropell’s modest assessment of Amazon’s impact on the business as usual aspects of Cannes may be technically accurate, when questioned about the hordes of filmmakers hungry for financing and distribution, he does acknowledge the fact that “our team’s dance cards are packed.”

“It’s a good problem to have,” says Ropell, noting with a chuckle, “we get to go to great parties!” But the serious upside of being the hot shop is what Ropell describes “access to the best.” At a time when the top film festivals are inundated with thousands of feature entries, how does Ropell figure out what’s “best” and what’s worth skipping for, say, a great party?

“Ted, Julie and Scott ( film chief Ted Hope, development executives Julie Rapaport and Scott Foundas) are great at their jobs and they’re the best filter in the business. They tell me which meetings I should be taking. We are delighted that people are reacting well to what we’re doing, but that means we have to double down on being respectful of people’s time and their interest in doing business with us.”

More Film

  • Black Bear

    'Black Bear': Film Review

    Actor-writer Lawrence Michael Levine’s first two directorial features, “Gabi on the Roof in July” and “Wild Canaries,” were idiosyncratic indie hipster comedies of a familiar stripe. His third, “Black Bear,” is a much trickier proposition, a kind of narrative puzzle box in which one might be hard-pressed to find a solution, or even determine there [...]

  • Wendy

    'Wendy': Film Review

    Eight long years after “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” Benh Zeitlin brings that same rust-bottomed sense of magical realism to the legend of Peter Pan, reframing J.M. Barrie’s Victorian classic through the eyes of the eldest Darling. “Wendy,” as the indie-minded not-quite-family-film is aptly titled, re-envisions its title character as a working-class kiddo raised at [...]

  • The 40-Year-Old Version

    'The 40-Year-Old Version': Film Review

    In Radha Blank’s semi-autobiographical comedy, the quadruple-threat plays “Rahda Blank,” a Harlem-based playwright who faces many of the same struggles and setbacks as her creator. It’s been more than a decade since Radha (as we’ll call the character) earned a promising “30 Under 30” award, and now, instead of getting her work produced, she’s teaching [...]

  • Pamela Tola

    Göteborg: Pamela Tola Proves There is an Audience for Different Stories

    GÖTEBORG, Sweden —  Chosen to close the discussion dedicated to discrimination against elderly people at the Göteborg Film Festival, Pamela Tola’s “Ladies of Steel” fitted right into this year’s focus on feminism and gender at the Swedish event. Which managed to deliver on its 50/50 promise, with 54% of the presented films being directed by [...]

  • Shirley Chen and Jose Angeles appear

    'Beast Beast': Film Review

    Writer-director Danny Madden’s “Beast Beast” clatters to life with organic percussion: a stick rat-a-tatting against an iron fence, a skateboard scraping on concrete, a rifle pinging bullets against a defenseless tin plate. Together, these sounds combine into jazz, despite the discordance of the three teens making such a ruckus. Krista (Shirley Chen), the stick thwacker, [...]

  • Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc

    Sundance: PBS POV Acquires Kenyan Doc ‘Softie’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    PBS’s documentary arm POV has snapped up U.S. broadcast rights for Kenyan director Sam Soko’s “Softie,” fresh off its world premiere in the World Documentary Cinema competition at Sundance, Variety has learned. The film, which is the first Kenyan-produced movie to premiere at the festival, will air as part of the series’ 33rd season, which kicks [...]

  • Will Smith as Mike Lowrey in

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Rules Over 'The Gentlemen'

    STX’s “The Gentlemen” proved no match for Sony’s “Bad Boys for Life,” which again left box office competitors in the dust after collecting $34 million in its sophomore outing. Those ticket sales, pushing the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence-led sequel past the $100 million mark, were easily enough to claim the No. 1 spot for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content