Amazon is about to shake things up in the theatrical world.
The studio is poised to give its Ben Affleck-Matt Damon drama “Air” an unprecedented theatrical release for a streaming service. Sources say Amazon will release the film, which centers on real-life shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro and how he led Nike in its pursuit of basketball phenom Michael Jordan, on 3,000-plus screens domestically. In addition, Amazon is planning an exclusive theatrical window that’s comparable to or even longer than those from major studios. The film debuts in cinemas worldwide on April 5. After its exclusive theatrical run, the Affleck-helmed film will launch on Prime Video.
“It’s a really big swing,” says one source familiar with the release plan. “It’s going to put a lot of pressure on Netflix and Apple to follow suit on their big films and how they release them.”
The aggressive bet on “Air’s” theatrical appeal coincides with the hire of Sue Kroll, who recently took over the marketing reins at Amazon. Kroll, a longtime Warner Bros. veteran, was courted by Amazon specifically for her expertise in releasing movies theatrically on a large scale. That’s something she did with commercial movies such as “The Dark Knight,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and the Affleck-directed “Argo.”
Amazon has sky-high hopes for “Air,” which stars Damon as Vaccaro, Affleck as Nike founder Phil Knight and Viola Davis as Jordan’s mother, Deloris. Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans and Chris Tucker round out the cast. To help generate buzz for the film, Amazon plunked down more than $7 million for a Super Bowl ad for “Air.” It joins a list of Hollywood films that will get spots during the game, such as Warners’ “The Flash” and Universal’s “Fast X.”
Though “Air” chronicles the chase to sign Jordan to a Nike endorsement deal, thus changing the face of sports and sneakers and ushering in the era of the global athlete superstar, Jordan himself is not a character in the film and is not portrayed by an actor. He only appears in real footage from early-’80s college basketball games, according to an insider.
Last year, Netflix dipped its toe into the theatrical release waters with the “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Story,” which played on 600 screens for one week over Thanksgiving weekend. Prior to that, Netflix only had released films theatrically in a minuscule fashion in order to qualify for Oscars. When Amazon originally got into the movie business, it released films such as “Manchester by the Sea” and “The Big Sick” in cinemas, giving them exclusive windows. But those films never debuted with as many screens as “Air” will when it premieres. In recent years, the company has pivoted to emphasizing streaming debuts. However, the company is reportedly exploring a major investment in theatrical releases.
Amazon declined to comment.
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