Searchlight & Amazon’s Theatrical Future

In the limited release prestige film space, Fox Searchlight is a major player and one that many had concerns about in the wake of Disney’s acquisition of Fox. When Disney shuttered the Fox 2000 division and effectively gutted most of the main Fox studios titles, that concern only went up despite assurances Searchlight wasn’t to be touched.

This week Disney’s Alan Horn was asked about the future of Searchlight by THR and, as far as he’s concerned, the Mouse House intends to leave that division alone: “We still have Fox Searchlight. They have won four out of the last 10 [best picture] Academy Awards. And we are backing them 100 percent because they make terrific movies with very renowned filmmakers with great casts.”

Asked if Searchlight titles will still get traditional theatrical releases for its films, he says: “Oh, I think they will, yeah.” If that sounds a little dubious to you, Horn admits he can’t even rule out “Avengers” films going straight to streaming: “Right now, no. I can’t predict five or ten years from now.” Fox Searchlight just released “Jojo Rabbit” and has “A Hidden Life” coming on December 13th.

In a separate interview with the same outlet, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke has spoken about going the other way when it comes to theatrical. Amazon originally adopted the more traditional strategy of releasing films in theaters and waiting at least 90 days before launching it on streaming.

That approach didn’t work with numerous titles flopping in quick succession, most notably “Late Night,” and so a shorter release window strategy was adopted – getting the content online for the world to see faster than ever:

“There was not a lot of customer focus [with the previous theatrical strategy], which is what the company’s North Star is all about: Prime subscribers… When we release something, when a new series drops, we see what’s happening in various countries all over the world. We know our customers love movies. We’re just trying to shift – it’s not closing the door on theatrical release. We will continue to [make] and acquire movies that will embrace that strategy. But it really is trying to get these movies to our Prime subscribers as soon as possible.”

She goes on to say the strategy is being applied on a case-by-case situation for them right now. One of the first films employing this new strategy is the Adam Driver-led “The Report” which hits cinemas November 15th and gets a Prime release on November 29th.