Amazon Moves Into Self-Distribution With Woody Allen’s ‘Wonder Wheel’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Amazon is moving into self-distributing its own movies, putting it on the path to becoming a full-fledged film studio.

The company will release Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel” without bringing in a distribution partner. The film opens in theaters on Dec. 1, 2017, and is expected to be an Oscar contender.

Amazon began buying and producing films in 2015, working with filmmakers such as Whit Stillman and Spike Lee, and earning Academy Awards for last year’s “Manchester By the Sea” and “The Salesman.” However, it has relied on independent studios such as Bleecker Street, Roadside Attractions, and Lionsgate to bring its film to theaters.

With their deep pockets and big ambitions, Amazon and Netflix have upended the film distribution landscape, although they have taken different approaches. Netflix is solely focused on servicing its streaming service subscribers. Amazon believes in premiering movies in theaters before offering them on its Prime digital service. With the move into self-distribution, Amazon now offers all of the services that a traditional film studio boasts — from financing to production to rolling out a picture in cinemas.

Variety also has confirmed that “Wonder Wheel” will be the closing night film of this year’s New York Film Festival, which is presented by Film Society of Lincoln Center. The movie is set in Coney Island in the 1950s. It follows a lifeguard (Justin Timberlake) who tells the story of a middle-aged carousel operator (Jim Belushi) and his beleaguered wife (Kate Winslet). The couple are visited by their estranged daughter (Juno Temple), which sets the plot in motion. The film reunites Allen cinematographer Vittorio Storaro — the two previously collaborated on last year’s “Cafe Society.”

Bob Berney, Amazon’s head of marketing and distribution, will oversee the company’s theatrical rollouts. The company is also adding staff. Amazon’s move into self-distribution has been rumored for some time. There was speculation that Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying,” would also be self-distributed, but insiders tell Variety, that the film will be released in conjunction with a studio partner. Other upcoming Amazon releases include Todd Haynes’ “Wonderstruck,” Mike White’s “Brad’s Status,” and Luca Guadagnino’s “Suspiria.”

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