The corporate production cycle of film and TV may be coalescing into a single entity - reverting back to the studio system after decades of technological progress and industry change. After Netflix looked at buying, then backed out of, a string of brick-and-mortar movie theaters in order to screen its originals, Amazon may be moving in a similar direction as its streaming competitor.
According to Bloomberg, the Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Studios company (the one behind original series like The Man in the High Castle and the upcoming Lord of the Rings series, along with movies like The Neon Demon) is one of a few candidates hoping to acquire Landmark Theaters.
The indie and arthouse-focused chain is owned by Wagner/Cuban Cos., which is looking to sell - though no discussions have been made final. “This is probably a move to get broader distribution of film content,” said Leo Kulp, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets LLC. “Netflix had been discussed as a potential buyer of Landmark for a similar reason.” Both Amazon and Netflix have made their way into the realm of awards-focused movies, with some getting theatrical runs simply to qualify for major accolades like the Oscars. Owning theaters helps keep those costs in-company.
This expansion would also increase the physical presence of Amazon, adding to their Whole Foods, Amazon Go, and Amazon Books stores that supplement the online shopping, music, and media-streaming kingdom under the company’s control. Landmark has over 50 theaters in 27 markets and would be a relatively cheap get for the company, since it’s a relatively small chain in a business that has been on the edge of irrelevance for years.
If the trust-busting decree that prevented studios from owning theaters is overturned (following the trend that led to the Disney-Fox acquisition), this deal could become very real. “It’s very possible that the Paramount decree gets overturned,” said David Miller, an analyst with Imperial Capital LLC. “It will be interesting to see if Amazon could be the first to test the new rules.” It may be one of the industry’s most innovative companies that take the industry back to its origins.