Amazon Studios is pushing back the release of its Eddie Redmayne–Felicity Jones drama The Aeronauts from Oct. 25 to Dec. 6, and cutting the film’s theatrical window to just two weeks, as it is now expected to begin streaming on Amazon Prime Video on Dec. 20.
Directed by Tom Harper, The Aeronauts is set in 1862 and follows wealthy young widow Amelia Wren (Jones) and headstrong scientist James Glaisher (Redmayne) as they mount a balloon expedition to fly higher than anyone in history. It’s a journey to the edge of a then-known world, where the air is thin and the chances of survival are slim.
The Aeronauts had been slated to receive a traditional theatrical release, including a one-week IMAX engagement. In fact, key action sequences within a hot air balloon were designed with IMAX viewers in mind, but now, the entire IMAX release is, pardon the pun, up in the air.
According to Deadline, Redmayne and Jones were supportive of the decision, which Amazon made with the goal of driving curious film fans towards its streaming service, Amazon Prime Video. I understand collapsing the theatrical window for Sundance acquisitions like Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Report or Honey Boy, but The Aeronauts seems like a movie that’s intended to be seen on the big screen. So on that front, this move feels like something of a blow.
What’s unclear, however, is whether this decision will have any impact on the film’s Oscar chances. The Aeronauts was supposedly seen as Amazon’s prime awards contender, but if a film is streaming in voters’ living rooms just two weeks after it hits theaters, does that change its optics? Keep in mind, Netflix gave Roma a three-week window in theaters, if I’m not mistaken. On the flip side of that coin, will The Aeronauts get a bump with voters because of its easy accessibility? I’ve heard good things about the film, and expect it to be a major player either way.
What’s interesting about this decision is that it lines up with what I’ve heard, which is that the theatrical business is becoming less important to Amazon. The company knows where its strengths and weaknesses lie, and they know how expensive a theatrical release can be, not to mention how tricky it can be to market certain indies in a world that seems more interested than ever in blockbuster IP. I’m not saying that theatrical won’t be a part of Amazon’s strategy going forward, just that we’re living in the age of the Streaming Wars, and that means satisfying your current subscribers and trying to add new ones, not trying to beat studios at their own theatrical game without any major IP. Amazon boss Jennifer Salke said it herself in a statement to Deadline. “The theatrical experience is an important part of our business but our highest priority is our customers.”
Amazon has stressed all along that each of its films will be evaluated on an individual basis as far as its release goes. For example, The Report will stream soon after it debuts in theaters, but Brittany Runs a Marathon will respect the traditional window.
Harper directed from a script by Jack Thorne, and he’s also producing alongside Todd Lieberman and David Hoberman of Mandeville Films. Thorne is executive producing with Richard Hewitt, and the film co-stars Tom Courtenay, Vincent Perez and Yesterday breakout Himesh Patel. Deadline broke the news.