Amazon Studios is transforming itself from a distributor working on the margins of the film industry to a purveyor of mainstream fare with widespread, international appeal. In its early days, Amazon established its reputation with independent films that were well-received by critics and favoured by the art-house crowd. Manchester by the Sea (2016) and The Big Sick (2017) were among their best-known and most successful titles.
At the same time, the company Amazon was building up an audience for its entertainment by leveraging its dominant position in online shopping, with Amazon Prime Video sporting 150M active subscribers. Last year, when the pandemic hit and theatrical releases were frozen, streamers stepped in to pick up the slack. While Netflix, Apple, and Hulu have all benefitted, Amazon has been among the most active in acquiring and marketing its content. Next Friday, Amazon Prime Video will premiere Coming 2 America, the sequel to the 1988 original starring Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.
Amazon acquired the title from Paramount Pictures, which had originally planned on a theatrical release for the film. Last October, the studio made headlines with the successful release of Sasha Baron Cohen’s political satire Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, opening two weeks before last year’s presidential election. Even while experiencing more widespread success, Amazon is still vying for recognition in this year’s awards contests, with nominations in major categories for Borat, One Night in Miami, and Sound of Metal. Once the pandemic lifts, Amazon Studio’s chief Jennifer Salke expects more of its major film releases to be developed internally rather than acquiring products from other studios.