Wednesday, February 20, 2019

AMAZON, NETFLIX STUMBLE IN BERLIN

February 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The day may eventually dawn when digital giants such as Amazon and Netflix will be able to share a place in the sun with the likes of Warner Bros., Universal, Disney, Paramount, and the other major Hollywood studios. That day clearly has not yet arrived, something that’s being demonstrated at the Berlin Film Festival, where the studios — or their art-house subsidiaries — are bidding for the cream of independent productions and other indie films being screened in the German capital. The British trade publication Screen Daily observed in a special Sunday edition published at the festival that Amazon failed to win the North American rights for Jeff Nichols’ Loving,, his follow-up to his sci-fi thriller Midnight Special, which was screened here on Thursday (to solid reviews). Universal’s specialty label Focus Features had deeper pockets, paying a reported $9 million for the drama about a 1958 interracial romance in Virginia that led to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision. Likewise on Friday, Netflix lost out to Miramax and Roadside Attractions in bidding for Southside With You, about Barack and Michelle Obamas’ first date. The size of the digital players’ bids may not have been the sole factor in the producers’ decisions. As Screen observed, last month rights to the Sundance hit The Birth of a Nation were sold to Fox Searchlight for $17.5 million, even though Netflix had offered $20 million. Those digital companies still can’t provide what the major studios can — theatrical distribution, followed by sales to cable, broadcast TV, and, yes, digital outlets like Amazon and Netflix. As one unnamed source explained to Screen,“If you go with Netflix you are eliminating any upside on your film, you have zero visibility into your film’s performance and they have yet to prove themselves in the awards arena.”