If you’re hoping to pre-order some of Warner Bros. upcoming films through Amazon, you’re going to be out of luck. The mammoth online retailer is in a contract dispute with Warner Bros. Home Video over the price of their Blu-rays and DVDs. According to The New York Times “The retailer’s refusal to sell the movies is part of its effort to gain leverage in yet another major confrontation with a supplier to become public in recent weeks.” Amazon has already been flexing its muscle with the publishing industry, and its standoff with Hachette Book Group has led the retailer to stop accepting pre-orders and delay shipments on Hatchette’s books.
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As the Times points out, the dispute isn’t the news as much as it’s about “suppliers’ growing resolve to hold the line.” Amazon’s business strategy could seriously backfire since J.K. Rowling‘s new book The Silkworm (written under her pseudonym “Robert Galbraith”) is due out later this month, and Warner Bros.’ The LEGO Movie will be out on Tuesday. These are major titles, and Amazon is telling customers they may as well go elsewhere. Personally, I was planning to buy The LEGO Movie from Amazon since I have gift cards, but now I’m fine taking my business elsewhere since I love the movie so much.
With regards to Warner Bros., Amazon has also stopped taking pre-orders for 300: Rise of an Empire, Winter’s Tale, and Transcendence. While I’m not feeling the loss on those titles, the larger point remains that Warner Bros. isn’t going to be bullied into playing Amazon’s game, nor should they. The retailer’s situation with books is more complex given their history with publishers and the cultural cachet of the product, but when it comes to movies, consumers have far more options. While customers can still own digital copies of Warner titles from Amazon Instant Video, it’s unfortunate that the retailer is shutting off those who want to own the Blu-ray, which contains all the special features as well as a digital copy.
Amazon hasn’t cut off all Warner Bros. titles, and perhaps they’ll keep older titles flowing, but this could be a serious miscalculation on their part. I won’t deny that Amazon has serious power, but they’re not invincible. Not yet, anyway.