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Amazon Increases Production Spending for 2018, Developing Three New Sci-Fi Series

Amazon is dramatically ramping up its production for next year, moving forward with three new high-concept series, Variety has learned. These new efforts represent a significant production investment from the studio, which is currently in preproduction, production or post on 67 TV series and 20 movies around the world.

The streaming service is developing the following:

• “Lazarus,” based on a comic book by Greg Rucka (“Marvel’s Jessica Jones”), is set in an alternative near future, where the world has been divided among 16 rival families, who run their territories in a feudal system. Each family has allies and enemies among the other families. To crush uprisings and fight wars, most families have a Lazarus: a one-person kill squad.

Rucka serves as writer and executive producer on “Lazarus,” along with Michael Lark (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”) and Angela Cheng Caplan.

• “Snow Crash,” which is based on Neal Stephenson’s cult novel, is a one-hour science fiction drama set in futuristic America. In reality, Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for Uncle Enzo’s CosoNostra Pizza Inc., but in the Metaverse he’s a warrior prince. Plunging headlong into the enigma of a new computer virus that’s striking down hackers everywhere, he races along the neon-lit streets on a search-and-destroy mission for the shadowy virtual villain.

A co-production with Paramount Television, “Snow Crash” is executive produced by Joe Cornish (“Ant-Man”) and Frank Marshall (“Back to the Future”).

• “Ringworld,” a co-production with MGM, is based on Larry Niven’s sci-fi book series from the 70’s. It tells the story of Louis Gridley Wu, a bored man celebrating his 200th birthday in a technologically-advanced, future Earth. Upon being offered one of the open positions on a voyage, Louis joins a young woman and two aliens to explore Ringworld, the remote artificial ring beyond “Known Space.”

In an internal email to Amazon employees, studio head Roy Price said that he’s feeling “bullish” about what’s in store for 2018 and 2019. “The biggest takeaway is that once again, our overall content investment is increasing, which will allow us to continue to meet customer demand around the world for high quality and engaging programming,” he wrote.

On Amazon’s slate for the rest of 2017 are: “Lore,” a horror series based on the hit podcast, produced by Gale Anne Hurd, which debuts Oct. 13; “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” from Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino which bows in December, alongside “The Grand Tour.”

Next year brings Carlton Cuse’s “Jack Ryan,” which stars John Krasinski; Matt Weiner’s “The Romanoffs,” with Isabelle Hupert, Christina Hendricks, and Aaron Eckhardt; and Julia Robert’s first TV series, “Homecoming,” from Sam Esmail (“Mr. Robot”).

Also in production is “Carnival Row,” a fantasy noir series which stars Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevigne and produced by Rene Echevarria, which starts shooting in Prague this week.

Amazon’s untitled David O. Russell project (Price’s memo called the scripts “great”) — with Julianne Moore and Robert De Niro — starts shooting next year. He also praised Paul Attanasio’s “Tong Wars” scripts for Wong Kar-Wai as “truly fantastic.” “I know that WKW is going to bring a fascinating world to life with a unique aesthetic and in an exciting and emotional way,” Price wrote.

Other projects on the slate include Nicolas Winding Refn‘s “Too Old to Die,” about the L.A. underworld and Alan Yang’s comedy with Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen.

In development are pilots with Greg Daniels; Barry Jenkins’ “Underground Railroad”; “The Boys” with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg written by Eric Kripke from the awesome Garth Ennis comic; “Black America” with Aaron Magruder and Will Packer; “The Nix” with J.J. Abrams and Meryl Streep (novel by Nathan Hill); “Black Power” with John Singleton; “The Cosmopolitans” with Whit Stillman; “Starsky & Hutch” with James Gunn.

Price’s memo highlighted recent overall deals with Robert Kirkman, Sharon Horgan, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino. “Talent is the most important thing,” wrote Price.

He also addressed the behind-the-scenes drama on “Goliath,” saying “‘Goliath’ has faced rumors of tumult, but Billy Bob Thornton won the Globe for Best Actor, and the shooting scripts and dailies for season two are looking great,” he wrote.

The new programming push comes three weeks after Variety reported exclusively on a mandate from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for Price’s Amazon Studios to make a dramatic shift in priorities for series development, with an increased focus on event and genre projects with the potential to draw large audiences worldwide, and less emphasis on naturalistic dramas and comedies. As part of that shift, Amazon canceled two freshman dramas, “Z: The Beginning of Everything” and “The Last Tycoon.”

 

 

 

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