Amazon Studios, the online retail giant's division focused on developing TV shows and producing films, intends to allocate more resources to commercial films and cut back on independent movies, according to a new report from Reuters citing industry sources close to the company. Amazon Studios used to purchase rights to indie films at the annual Sundance Film Festival in an effort to help independent producers bring their works to Hollywood and gain more mainstream support. The strategy shift comes after the firm's comedy and drama programming chief Joe Lewis and the division’s head Roy Price allegedly clashed with high-profile filmmakers and alienated many big Hollywood names. The spat between Amazon Studios and Hollywood eventually led the former to struggle with establishing itself as a major producer and distributor of movies.
As part of the strategy shift, the company plans to reach more audiences with high-budget filmmaking. The new approach is intended to pursue films with a budget of around $50 million, though it remains unclear how much of Amazon Studios' film budget will be apportioned to large productions. The move, however, is not to be construed as a complete departure from independent filmmaking, though it now remains to be seen how much attention the company will give to this category moving forward, starting with Sundance.
Amazon Studios kicked off operations in 2010 and launched an aggressive strategy of pursuing original content projects in 2013. The move included funding programming based not on the decisions of individual executives but raw data. The approach was in stark contrast to the one adopted by Hollywood to greenlight movie projects. Amazon later drifted away from that approach after it clashed with large filmmakers and its content failed to gain enough traction to go against popular shows from HBO and rival Netflix despite billions of dollars it spent on original content on an annual basis. Some of the creative talent including Shawn Ryan and David E. Kelley who collaborated with Amazon Studios in the past also indicated that the company constantly interfered with their creative processes to a large extent, adding that the studio also suffers from a chaotic working environment.