For a company that makes films for its streaming service, Amazon is notorious for accommodating a whopping ninety day theatrical release window before any of its originals end up on Prime Video. This means that Amazon will not release any of its originals until three months after they start playing in theaters — regardless of whether the films’ theatrical run actually lasts that long.
Why Amazon plays nice with theaters
Amazon’s strategy of withholding films from online release until long after they come out on the big screen has helped them soothe hostile and suspicious nerves in the US’s theatrical chains, and also at film festivals like Cannes. Meanwhile, theatrical chains have boycotted Netflix and Cannes attendees have heckled it for the company’s direct-to-online release strategy.
Roy Price, Amazon Studios’s head, explained, “Once the movie comes on the service having been in theaters, I think there is a perception that it’s a legit movie: It was reviewed, and it was in a theater — it’s like, a movie […] so we’re very supportive of the theatrical window.”
But in India, that window is narrowing, rapidly. The film Hindi Medium, for instance, came out on Amazon merely a month after it hit theaters. And so did A Death In The Gunj. But those films are independent, and even Netflix has released indies like Umrika, Kothanodi and Haraamkhor immediately after, or even before, the theatrical run ended.
Why the Salman Khan deal is a big deal
Films like Raabta, Kaatru Veliyidai, and Lipstick Under My Burkha have been or will be releasing on Prime Video very soon after their theatrical release. But Salman Khan’s slate of films is possibly the highest-profile deal Amazon has been able to land in this early a window. Netflix’s similar deal with Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies has a much wider window. Raees, which came out in January — after the Netflix–Red Chillies deal was signed — only released on Netflix five months after the film’s theatrical release.
An Amazon spokesperson told MediaNama, “We know not having latest movies and TV shows is an unmet demand; there is no affordable nor reliable service where customers can get movies within a few weeks from theatrical release or US TV shows on-demand. Hence we are focused on securing latest content with the earliest possible window.”
Clearly, Amazon cares less about the theatrical window in India, which happens to be one of the world’s largest hubs of film piracy. In fact, the Amazon spokesperson said, “We also keep a check on piracy data — overall our content offering is customer-led.”
Netflix has also been spending large amounts of money in India. Mint reported that the streaming service bought the Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam versions of the Baahubali duology for $4 million. But aside from its originals and some indie films, they haven’t quite been able to get Indian films up on the service with Amazon’s immediacy. It’s almost like both companies have exchanged their go-to strategies when it comes to India, whether willingly or out of competitive pressures.