The official word from within Amazon is that Hope left by choice, and will transition out with a multi-year first look producing deal at the streamer. He brought deep indie street cred to the fledgling division when it formed. However, many of the films he championed, oversaw, and helped acquire suffered poor results at the box office and received a mixed critical reception.
A replacement for Hope is unlikely as his colleagues Julie Rapaport and Matt Newman will absorb his duties, according to a memo from Salke sent to staff on Thursday congratulating the pair on their “expanded roles.”
In the early days of Amazon’s original movies program, Hope was involved in mounting successful acquisitions like the Academy Award nominated “The Big Sick” and Oscar winner “Manchester By the Sea.” But the misses outweighed the films that connected with critics. Amazon overpaid for festival titles like “Late Night” and “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” which tanked in theatrical rollouts. Moreover, films that Hope backed early in their production such as “Wonderstruck” and “Wonder Wheel,” the latter the byproduct of a disastrous association with Woody Allen, collapsed on release.
Hope was hired by a different regime. He was tapped by former Amazon Studios chief Roy Price in 2015 to head its development, production, and acquisitions team. Price was ousted in 2017 in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.
“I have never been at a place where so many people were so smart, so passionate, and so committed to raising the bar — where they did not seem into it for themselves,” Hope wrote in his own departure note to staff. “When I first considered coming to Amazon and read our Leadership Principles, I was cynical and could not believe that the ALPs would be embodied by you — it is so great to be proven wrong on such things. Thank you, again. I trust we will get to collaborate many more times to come.”
Salke reportedly got along well with Hope, but she has changed the direction of the studio. Amazon was initially a prominent backer of theatrical releases, but has shifted its emphasis to backing projects that debut simultaneously on Prime and in a limited number of screens. There’s also been a bigger push to back projects that are less arthouse-oriented and more broadly appealing. An Amazon insider said the division remains committed to movies, and is engaged in straight-to-service deals with stars like Nicole Kidman. Competition is fierce in the tech-turned-Hollywood market, as Apple mounts high profile projects like a comedic spin on “A Christmas Carol” with Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell, and this week’s announcement of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio’s pricey ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.”
Hope has a long line of indie film connections, dating from his time founding Good Machine, the label behind “The Ice Storm” and “Happiness.” The company was eventually sold to Universal. Hope went on to produce such films as “Adventureland,” “21 Grams,” and “American Splendor.”
Deadline first reported the news of Hope’s exit. Read the full memo sent by Salke below:
Hello Team –
I’m writing today to update you on some changes to the Movies team. Ted Hope will be transitioning from his co-head role and returning to his passion of producing. Ted approached me earlier this year and expressed his feelings about taking on a new challenge. Over the course of several months and many conversations I came to realize Ted is a producer through and through and that now is the right time for both him and the studio to make a change. I couldn’t be happier for Ted as he takes on this new adventure.
Beginning June 2nd, Ted will enter into a multi-year, first look deal with Amazon Studios. This will allow him to focus on the kind of critically acclaimed films he produced prior to joining Amazon and the prestige films he shepherded during his tenure here.
As many of you may know, Ted was hired to grow the movies team five years ago initially focusing on prestige films. His first production was Spike Lee’s critically acclaimed Chi-Raq. What followed was a slate of daring, interesting and award-winning films including the Oscar-winners Manchester by the Sea and Cold War, The Handmaiden, Love & Friendship, Paterson, You Were Never Really Here, The Big Sick and this year’s Oscar-nominated Les Misérables.
Ted is a beloved and widely respected figure throughout the industry. We’re grateful to continue our partnership as he enters into this new chapter. Ted will consult on several movies planned for release in 2020 and he will produce select projects on the Studios’ upcoming development slate. Amazon Studios will always be a home for the best filmmakers in the business, and we consider Ted a member of this group. I’m thrilled that Ted will continue to be a vital part of the Amazon Studios family.
Moving forward, Matt Newman and Julie Rapaport will be Co-Heads of the Movies team, reporting to me. I know the group will be in good hands as they continue their collaborative leadership, and build upon on the great successes AOM has had just within the past year with films including Late Night, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Honey Boy, The Aeronauts and Troop Zero. Please join me in congratulating Matt and Julie on their expanded roles.
I’m so proud of everything the Movies team has accomplished and look forward to continued great work in the future.
And finally, please join me in congratulating Ted on his new venture and thanking him for all his incredible work in helping build Amazon Original Movies.
More to come…