This winter, Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel is scheduled to open in theaters. It will be the first film by Amazon Studios released without the help of a distribution partner, Variety reports.
Although Amazon has bought and produced several films since 2015, like the Oscar-nominated Manchester by the Sea and this year’s Landline, it has always partnered with a studio for theatrical distribution in the past. Manchester by the Sea was distributed with help from Roadside Attractions; Landline was through Magnolia Pictures.
As Variety points out, this move makes Amazon more similar to a traditional film studio than its streaming competitors like Netflix. Netflix has expressed mild interest in theatrical releases, with some movies receiving a limited theatrical run. But the company has been clear that its movies will continue to be released online simultaneously with theatrical opens, while Amazon has been more aggressive about getting its movies into theaters.
Netflix has been criticized by old-school industry types like director Christopher Nolan and the Cannes Film Festival for its release strategy. They argue that by bringing movies directly online, Netflix undermines what a theatrical release even means. In the meantime, Amazon, a massive company with its own streaming service, is now forgoing any help from traditional studios.
Woody Allen has partnered with Amazon before, for his 2016 TV series Crisis in Six Scenes starring Miley Cyrus, which was widely panned by critics.
Amazon acquired the North American rights to Wonder Wheel last winter, and plans to release it on Prime Video after a theatrical run. The movie is about a carousel operator (Jim Belushi) and his wife (Kate Winslet) in 1950s Coney Island. The movie also stars Juno Temple as the couple’s daughter and Justin Timberlake as a lifeguard.
It’s scheduled for release in December 2017.