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When the South By Southwest film festival was forced to shut down, uncertainty gripped virtually every filmmaker who was set to premiere their films in Austin, Texas. Even bigger-budget films from major studios (like The Lovebirds, starring Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae) didn’t know their distribution chances, as movie theaters slowly closed in the weeks following the SXSW change. Over time, a glimmer of hope surfaced when Amazon Prime announced plans to stream SXSW films to help them reach a broader audience.
But at least one filmmaker who we were able to speak with explained why that streaming deal wasn’t as positive as audiences might have realized.
Kris Rey was bringing her comedy, I Used to Go Here, to SXSW before the shit hit the fan. Her movie stars Community’s Gillian Jacobs as a first-time author who retreats to her college town when poor sales cancel her book tour. She recently joined our ReelBlend podcast to open up about the making of the film, and when we asked if she’d show the movie via the newly-announced Amazon streaming offer, Rey told us:
We were asked. I think everybody was asked. And unfortunately, we had to turn down the opportunity, as much as I would love to do it. The financiers, and the people that have a vested interest in the movie being sold feel, rightly, that this would possibly hurt our chances of actually selling the film.
When asked to clarify, Kris Rey went into more detail, elaborating:
Let’s say a distributor, let’s say IFC or Sony, wanted to buy the film, maybe they would decide that they wanted to do a theatrical release. And then they would want the film to ultimately end up online. So it’d ultimately go to Netflix or Amazon or one of those streaming services. And they would be afraid that the moment would have passed. If it’s available on Amazon Prime, and its unlimited how many people can watch that, people who are excited about the movie – however many hundreds of thousands of people watch it for free on Amazon – then later, when the movie does start its natural streaming service life, it will be old news. Or if they do a theatrical release, people will not be motivated to go see it in a theater.
It’s a very valid concern. Movies like I Used to Go Here fight hard enough for theatrical space alongside the glut of blockbusters that crowd multiplexes when they are open. On the surface, opening a movie to a service like Amazon Prime seems to be a win in the short term. But Kris Rey is right to be concerned that such a window could damage her movie’s chances at success later on, when she’d be trying to reach audiences in a theater.
To hear our full interview with Kris Rey, listen to this week’s ReelBlend episode.
Kris Rey tells us that she hopes to have an announcement on the distribution plans for her comedy, I Used to Go Here, soon. We’ll report them as soon as we have them, as the movie – which stars Gillian Jacobs, Jemaine Clement, Kate Micucci and Jorma Taccone – is really funny, and is worth your time.