Amazon and the $50 Million Film

Jeffrey Dastin and Jessica Toonkel, reporting for Reuters:

Amazon expects to go after films with budgets in the $50 million range at the expense of indie projects costing around $5 million, one person familiar with the plans said on the condition of anonymity.

Already this news is garnering some jeers, but I welcome it. I hope Amazon doesn’t totally get out of the $5 million and under film game, but projects in that budget range are pretty well served today.

The $50 million film, on the other hand, is the diciest bet in the business. Audiences keep proving that the more you spend on a film, the more likely you are to see a healthy return. This is why there are so many tentpoles with budgets in the stratosphere. In fact, of the top ten highest grossing films1 of 2017, only one came in at or under the $50 million mark: Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of It, with an estimated budget of $35 million. The expensive films tend to be a sure thing.2

Amazon has proven itself an adept and energetic studio. I particularly like that they haven’t cynically written off theatrical runs for their projects (ahem, Netflix). Studios don’t really takes risks in this budget range. Steven Spielberg’s The Post cost an estimated $50 million to make, for example, but a Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep film with one of the most successful filmmakers of all time at the helm isn’t exactly a risk.

Amazon can afford to take the chance on the bigger films we aren’t seeing. I’m excited to see what filmmakers can do with larger budgets on projects that won’t sink a studio if they fail.

Update: Deadline got a statement from Jason Ropell at Amazon, confirming the part of this I like and denying the part I don’t.

Said Ropell, who is en route to Sundance, for the purpose of watching and possibly buying films here: “We are not abandoning the indie space, we are increasing the potential size of the audience for our films; that in some cases involves higher budgets, but in others not. It’s about the potential for the film not the cost.”

Will definitely be interesting to see what comes out of this new push.

  1. All sequels or reboots, naturally. ↩︎

  2. Credit where it’s due: IMDb claims Despicable Me 3 had a budget of $80 million and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle cost some $90 million. I’m shocked either was made for under $100 million. And for what it’s worth, there’s no estimated budget for Star Wars: The Last Jedi but it’s safe to assume it cost…a lot. ↩︎