Amazon goes Hollywood with new online movie studio

Amazon Studios will use the Internet to attract and develop motion pictures

Amazon.com is getting into the movie business by opening Amazon Studios, with the goal of using the Internet to put fresh movies on the big screen.

The new Internet movie studio will allow writers to upload screenplays to its website where the global Internet audience can read them and offer feedback, or producers/directors can use them to make test movies. The test movies, which must be at least 70 minutes in length, can also be uploaded.

Amazon Studios will also award monthly cash prizes to the top submissions of US$100,000 for the best movie each month and US$20,000 to the two best scripts. They'll also be an annual award of $1 million for the best movie and $100,000 for the best script. In all, the company expects to hand out up to US$2.7 million for submissions received by Dec. 31, it said on its website.

"Full-length test movies will show stories up on their feet and attract helpful feedback at an early stage," Amazon said in a statement. "We hope that Amazon Studios will help filmmakers experiment and collaborate and we look forward to developing hit movies."

The company has also signed on Warner Bros. Pictures to a 'first-look deal' which gives Warner the right of first refusal on movie projects that Amazon Studios thinks are worthwhile.

A video on Amazon Studios' website says one of its goals is to open up the movie industry because Hollywood is too closed. Movies are made by people all over the world now and Amazon Studios hopes to give those people a venue to show off their work and develop worthy projects into motion pictures.

"Our goal is to turn your projects into major feature films," the video host says.

Amazon Studios said its industry panel will include screenwriter and chair of the writing division of the USC school of Cinematic Arts, Jack Epps, Jr., who wrote "Top Gun" as well as Mark Gill, former president of Miramax and Warner Independent Pictures.

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Dan Nystedt

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