CinemaCon: Amazon Tells Exhibitors It Fully Supports the Theatrical Window

Though a non-traditional player in the movie distribution business, Amazon Studios exec Jason Ropell gave a big boost to tradition in how movies are handled.

He told exhibitors at the company’s CinemaCon presentation Thursday that the company fully supports the traditional release pattern. Ropell, VP of worldwide motion pictures, noted that Amazon’s 2016 presentation at CinemaCon had one movie while the studio now has released 15 titles, including “Manchester by the Sea,” which won the best actor Oscar for Casey Affleck and the best original screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan, and Asghar Farhadi’s “The Salesman,” which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

“Last year we promised to be one of your key suppliers and we stayed true,” Ropell said. “We believe in the theatrical window fully for our releases. Our Amazon Prime customers want to see great movies, and great movies play in theaters.”

Exhibitors, who are being pressured by Warner Bros. and several others to shorten the theatrical window to generate more revenues digitally, gave those comments a strong endorsement with loud applause.

Amazon distribution chief Bob Berney then supplied footage of the upcoming slate, including “The Big Sick,” starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. Amazon acquired the rights shortly after “The Big Sick” — which Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon wrote about their courtship — premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival.

“We went with Amazon because of their commitment to theatrical release,” Nanjiani said. The film opens June 23.

The presentation included footage from Charlie Hunnam’s “The Lost City of Z,” based on the story of British explorer Percival Fawcett, who disappeared in 1925 while looking for an ancient city in the Amazon. “This is a film that demands to be seen in the cinema,” Berney said.

Hunnam described in detail the rigors of shooting in the jungles of Colombia, including having to be hospitalized after an insect flew into his ear. Bleecker Street opens “The Lost City of Z” on April 14.

Berney also screened footage from Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying,” a comedy about a road trip with three veterans, portrayed by Laurence Fishburne, Steve Carell, and Bryan Cranston.

Berney got a big laugh when he touted Amazon handling Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” which will open Sept. 9 with Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake and Jim Belushi starring in a story set in the 1950s at Coney Island. “As usual, we have nothing to show you,” Berney said.

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