Crowdsourcing goes to Hollywood as Amazon makes movies

Wed Oct 10, 2012 7:04am EDT
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By Alistair Barr

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Inc is producing its own movies and TV programming using the consumer tracking and data crunching skills it developed while becoming the world's largest Internet retailer.

Essentially, Amazon is crowdsourcing the creation of original content -- movies such as "Zombies versus Gladiators" and the children's TV series "Magic Monkey Billionaire."

The retailer hopes the approach will result in more hits and fewer flops than the traditional Hollywood practice of filtering creative ideas through three-martini lunches with studio bosses and movie stars.

Like rival movie provider Netflix Inc, Amazon is developing its own content to supplement movies and TV shows from Hollywood's back catalog. Amazon pays an estimated $1 billion a year to stream programming from others over its Prime Instant Video service.

Since late 2010, the company's Hollywood studio, Amazon Studios, has let aspiring screenwriters and film makers upload thousands of scripts to its website.

It has an exclusive, 45-day option to buy movie scripts for $200,000 and TV series for $55,000. It can also pay $10,000 to extend options for 18 months.

Instead of green-lighting a feature-length film or TV pilot, Amazon first helps develop the scripts it options into trial videos. It posts these online to solicit reviews and feedback from its millions of customers. Writers use the feedback to adjust scripts, hoping to boost the chances of creating a hit when Amazon spends millions of dollars turning projects into full movies or TV shows.

"Hopefully we can avoid big bombs," said Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios. "Our notion for what the world needs may be a roller-skating movie or a battleship film, but that could be wrong. We can do tests and find out that, actually, no one cares about this project or that one. If you do that before you spend $200 million on it, that would be good. Good for customers and good for the business."   Continued...

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks off after unveiling the Kindle Paperwhite, Kendle Fire HD 8.9" and 7" during Amazon's Kindle Fire event in Santa Monica, California September 6, 2012. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas