Netflix has already begun delving into original feature films and now, it looks like Amazon is also entering the movie game. The company is reportedly finalizing a deal to pick up Elvis & Nixon, a historically themed film starring Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon.
According to Deadline, Amazon has acquired the domestic rights to the film for close to $4 million. As part of the groundbreaking deal, the company will team with distributor Bleeker Street to release the film, first in traditional theaters and then on Amazon’s immense global online platform.
Elvis & Nixon chronicles the historic 1970’s meeting between Presley and the U.S. president, which famously led to one of the most unexpected White House photo op in pop culture. Shannon will play the legendary music artist, while Spacey will portray the commander-in-chief. Meanwhile, Alex Pettyfer, Colin Hanks and Johnny Knoxville also co-star.
Per Deadline, Liza Johnson (Hateship Loveship, Return) directed the film, based on a script Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal and Princess Bride star Cary Elwes. Elwes is also producing alongside Dallas Buyer’s Club producers, Cassian Elwes and Holly Wiersma.
The project is Amazon’s latest attempt to follow in the footsteps of Netflix, which first entered the movie business by nabbing the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Since then, Netflix has gotten even more aggressive in its efforts, shelling out big money to distribute several high-profile projects, including four new Adam Sandler films (starting with the Western comedy Ridiculous Six), a new sequel to Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and the Cary Fukunaga-directed Beasts of No Nation. Most recently, the streaming service also landed a game-changing project in Brad Pitt’s latest film, War Machine.
Still, Amazon is not all too far behind. It’s already expanded into original TV programming, garnering critical acclaim for its hit Transparent. Now, Elvis & Nixon will mark its first big move into film acquisitions.
Amazon is taking a different approach to movie distribution than its competitor however. Netflix has drawn ire from major theater chains, thanks to its method of streaming its movies exclusively on its own platform or – in the case of prestige films like Beasts of No Nation – only allowing for a very limited theatrical run for awards consideration.
Unlike Netflix, Amazon’s strategy of teaming with a traditional theatrical distributor like Bleecker Street for Elvis & Nixon seems to bridge the two worlds. Since the film will be in theaters at least four to eight weeks before arriving to Amazon Prime, it won’t completely disrupt the theatrical window (even though it will shorten it). That’s a smart strategy for a company just entering the world of movie distribution, as it gets them in the game while still opening the door for an eventual push into simultaneous distribution.
Release strategy aside, Elvis & Nixon definitely seems like a great property for Amazon to start out with. With big names attached and a compelling story to tell, the project could put the company on the path to becoming a notable force in the movie world
But this is only the beginning for Amazon. Per Deadline, the company currently has a budget of up to $200 million to finance films and is focusing on nabbing edgy, awards-friendly fare. With Elvis & Nixon already on deck and the long-gestating Don Quixote movie from director Terry Gilliam rumored to be in the works, it seems it’s already off to a good start.
No release for Elvis & Nixon has been revealed just yet.