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Did Amazon Contemplate Buying a Movie Theater Chain?

Amazon appears to have contemplated, at least briefly, the idea of buying movie theater chain Landmark Theaters, according to a Wednesday Bloomberg report. Landmark’s 50-plus cinemas tend to focus on mid-budget, art house movies, a segment of the market where Amazon has been a major player in recent years, backing films such as “Manchester by the Sea.” An acquisition of the chain could give Amazon’s films broader theatrical distribution, particularly in markets like New York and Los Angeles which are full of awards voters. That was likely Netflix’s main motivation when it considered buying Landmark earlier this year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hollywood trade site Deadline played down the story on Thursday, saying Amazon wasn’t in the final rounds of bidders. That’s probably true. Companies frequently ask for information booklets on businesses being sold, if only to get competitive information. That’s likely the case here, which is interesting in itself.

It’s possible someone at Amazon is thinking about the possibilities of owning a small theater chain to ensure Amazon releases get a theatrical release. It’s also possible Amazon has thought about integrating a theatrical subscription model into Prime, or as part of a premium tier, as I suggested earlier this year. MoviePass showed the tremendous appetite for movie subscriptions, which major theater chains AMC and Cinemark have also acknowledged with the introduction of their own plans.

The math makes more sense for theater chains to offer subscription plans than third parties, because they can make back the ticket discount by getting more people through the door and selling them highly profitable popcorn and soda. Amazon can do that too, and sell them pretty much anything else they would want through Prime.

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