CinemaCon: Lionsgate Teaming With Amazon to Release Woody Allen's 'Cafe Society'

Sabrina Lantos/Amazon Studios
Woody Allen's 'Cafe Society

"A good robust theatrical run is good for everyone," Amazon Studios chief Roy Price told theater owners in Las Vegas hours after learning that five of his movies will play at the Cannes Film Festival.

Just hours after learning that five of its films will play at the Cannes Film Festival, Amazon Studios on Thursday revealed that the streaming service is teaming with Lionsgate to release Woody Allen's festival opener Cafe Society in theaters in August.

Amazon Studios marketing and distribution chief Bob Berney announced the news during a luncheon hosted by the streaming service at CinemaCon, the annual gathering of theater owners in Las Vegas. His boss, Roy Price, also took to the podium, declaring that Amazon will give most of its original movies a proper theatrical release, unlike rival Netflix.

"A good robust theatrical run is good for everyone," Price told the crowd, prompting several rounds of applause. "Therefore, almost all of our films will have full theatrical releases. Our goals are aligned with exhibition."

Berney led most of the luncheon presentation. It's a coup that Amazon was part of the official program at CinemaCon, considering many exhibitors have been leery about Netflix and Amazon's move into the original movie business. However, Amazon has quickly decided that it's better for their films to play first in theaters and honor the 90-day window before making them available to Amazon Prime customers. Otherwise, most theaters will refuse to play the movies at all.

Last fall, Amazon and partner Roadside Attractions failed to book more than 300 locations for Spike Lee's Chi-Raq since the movie was made available in short order on Prime. Chi-Raq topped out at $2.7 million; worse, it was shut out of the Oscar race, as was Netflix's Beasts of No Nation, which got an even smaller theatrical run. (Price is keen to achieve the same awards glory with film that he has had in TV with Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle.)

The other Amazon Studios pics going to Cannes include Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon, Jim Jarmusch's Paterson and Iggy Pop music documentary Gimme Danger, all of which will play in competition, and The Handmaiden from Korean genre-film master Park Chan-wook.

"As you know, we've been very, very busy, We acquired six films at Sundance," said Berney, who went detailed the company's slate, including never-before-seen footage of Cafe Society and Neon Demon, as well as the premiere of the trailer for the latter pic. Refn spoke to the room via taped message, while Neon Demon star Elle Fanning appeared in person to plug the film.

"Nick is a genius and he’s created something that I’ve never, ever seen before.
 There’s a lot of secrets in it, too, so there’s lots of surprises," said the actress.

Neon Demon was filmed in chronological order, and Fanning said they came up with the ending after they were already shooting. The short clip of Cafe Society featured Jesse Eisenberg and Anna Camp. 

Other upcoming Amazon films that will receive a proper theatrical run include Whit Stillman's Love & Friendship (May 13) and Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea (Nov. 18).

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