I love Amazon. You know that…
They are a force that just doesn’t seem to stop growing in scope and scale. They’re like that project from hell that goes so far off the rails you forget the objective of the project to start with. What started as an online bookseller has turned into a massive marketplace for everything from books to home goods, bathroom fixtures to original movies and television shows. They have it all. With last year’s acquisition of Whole Foods they took another giant leap closer to crushing Walmart by entering the grocery business and now? Bloomberg broke the news earlier this week that they have their eyes on Landmark Cinemas. Yes, like the days of old, Amazon is making an attempt to own the full integration of one of their key products, entertainment.
If this goes through, Amazon will add a new distribution channel to its mix which could be good and bad for the beast that Bezo’s built.
Making big bigger
Amazon is expected to wrap the year with a bill around $5B for original programming. At this point, their only method of distribution was through their Amazon apps and devices (Firestick, cube, etc. etc.). With the addition of 52 movie theatres, 252 screens in 27 markets – Amazon now has the unique ability to turn their original programming into theatrical events without the need of a distributor to help facilitate the transaction. Moreover, the guarantee that a theatre typically pays to a distributor could be subsidized since the distributor and the theatre owner are one in the same. Crazy and brilliant.
70+ years ago, the U.S. government created the “Paramount Decree” which prevented studios from vertically integrating with theatres, however, times change and our friends down in Washington publically stated this month (conveniently) that they may overturn this. What does that mean? Well, it means that Amazon, Netflix, Paramount and Warner Brothers could potentially buy out or get a large stake in AMC, Lowes, or whatever theatre they want. The unfair part of this is that only the big guns will be able to take advantage of this opening of the flood gates, leaving the smaller studios to their own devices – either having to take it hard to get the smaller budget films into theatres or find new means of distribution. This could mean fewer but bigger movies at your local 16 screen. It’s a David v. Goliath situation – in the words of Trump… SAD!
A new channel
The big win for Amazon is being able to get their original programming in front of the non-Amazon crowd. While this is a relatively small group, it’s a group that isn’t exposed to the programming they produce. By doing a “Maisel” Marathon at a Landmark Cinema, you may pique the interest of some non-subscribers and get them to convert so they can do their own marathoning at home.
Whatever direction this takes, I’m excited to see how this plays out. If anything Amazon won’t be “disrupting” the industry by any means, it may actually improve the movie-going experience. Imagine being able to do one-click purchasing on your popcorn, or pre-ordering your concessions as you walk through the doors of the theatre. Or better yet – since privacy be damned – you get to your seat, and an attendant shows up with my Cherry Coke and large popcorn, extra butter… because Amazon just knows that when I go to the movies – that’s my go to.
Side note. I’m still waiting for them to buy a hotel chain. Maybe 2020. Let’s start taking bets.