Amazon Studios Broke Buying Records at Sundance 2019 & Shares Plans for This Year




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Last year at Sundance, Amazon made huge deals for films including Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Report, and Honey Boy. Amazon also set a festival record, paying $13 million for Mindy Kaling’s Late Night. In the end, the $46 million spent on the content led to only about $26 million gross at the box office. Still, Jennifer Salke, Amazon Studios head, says she wouldn’t have done anything differently.

In an interview with Deadline, Salke says she doesn’t regret her major purchases at last year’s Sundance, commenting “I think we all are really pleased with how last year’s Sundance strategy paid off for us. I know it was hard to see the forest through the trees for a lot of people, given how confounding our movie business is, on top of just the business changing in general. The goal going into last year was to make sure that we were able to think about our customers. We were shifting our business away from being a prestige art house movie studio into something like a split focus.”

Salke reiterated throughout the interview with Deadline that Amazon is focused on finding the content that will resonate with Prime Video viewers. While there are opportunities to invest in what the Amazon Studios head called prestige movies, and Amazon will continue to bring those movies to theaters, the team knows that genres like romantic comedies and films with big name celebrities are a better fit for the Prime Video audience, and that’s where the money will continue to go. That was exactly the mindset that brought Late Night to Prime Video.

When asked if she would still pay the $13 million for the film if she could do it all over again, Salke said yes without hesitation. While it didn’t bring in huge numbers at the box office, the movie was a hit with Prime viewers, which is exactly what the platform wants. In fact, Salke and her team are willing to pay even more if the right movie is available.

“You’ll see more movies in the $15 million-$30 million range on Prime that we feel like will be slam dunks. We can rationalize those movies all day long, but for me it’s about finding the right movies. And that’s how I’m walking into Sundance. Hoping that those movies are there.”

Sundance is taking place in Park City, UT now through February 2. After the film festival, we’ll be back to share which films streaming services have acquired.

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