Amazon Scraps Traditional Release for 'The Aeronauts,' Jeopardizing Imax Run

Courtesy of Amazon Studios
'The Aeronauts'

The awards hopeful stars Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne.

Amazon Studios' awards hopeful The Aeronauts, starring Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, won't get a traditional theatrical release after all as the streamer increasingly begins to make some of its original films almost immediately available to customers, akin to Netflix.

The 1862 period adventure, about two hot air balloonists and their perilous journey, was set to open exclusively in Imax theaters Oct. 25 before expanding nationwide Nov. 1. Now, The Aeronauts will now only debut in a select number of theaters Dec. 6 before premiering two weeks later on Amazon Prime.

The change-up by Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke and her team is likely to derail the partnership with Imax, which, like other most theater circuits, won't carry a film that doesn't honor the 90-day exclusive window (give or take).

Amazon and Imax declined to comment while the pact is being reviewed to see if the new release date will work for Imax's busy year-end schedule and its exhibition partners. Other sources say the deal is now in serious jeopardy.

Key action sequences in The Aeronauts were designed for Imax and filmed with Imax cameras. The first-ever deal between Amazon and the large-format exhibitor was announced in late May.

At the same time, Amazon continues to have major awards ambitions for The Aeronauts, which is tipped for play at both the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals. The adventure-drama reunites Jones and Redmayne for the first time since awards darling The Theory of Everything.

Last year, Netflix only gave Alfonso Cuarón's Oscar frontrunner Roma a three-week exclusive run in cinemas. The movie won a number of top awards, including best director; however, it didn't win in the coveted best picture category.

The Aeronauts is the biggest title yet that could be seen almost immediately on Prime. Before Salke came board, Amazon, unlike rival Netflix, abided by the traditional theatrical window when releasing its original films — including awards darling Manchester by the Sea. Now, under Salke's rule, the course has changed.

“The theatrical experience is an important part of our business but our highest priority is our customers. We know The Aeronauts is a film Amazon Prime Video customers will want access to as soon as possible, and is the perfect example of high level, quality filmmaking customers can expect from us both in theaters and on Prime," Salke said in a statement Tuesday.

"Considering how competitive it has become to capture audiences’ attention and how audiences are consuming their entertainment, we believe this is the best choice for the film and that we’re delivering our customers an epic film that we believe will be a major player in the awards conversation at the height of awards season," Salke continued.

Directed by Tom Harper and Written by Jack Thorne, The Aeronauts is produced by Mandeville Films' Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman and Harper, and executive produced by Richard Hewitt and Thorne. FilmNation Entertainment is handling international distribution.