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06 December 2023

YouTube follows Amazon into movie theaters


YouTube said Wednesday it is making a movie in-house to be released in theaters, in a development being seen as a step towards the model of new-media innovator Amazon.

"Vulture Club," which is in post-production, stars Oscar winner Susan Sarandon ("Dead Man Walking," "Thelma and Louise") as an emergency room nurse whose son is been kidnapped by terrorists.

Directed by Iranian-American Maryam Keshavarz ("Circumstance"), the thriller also stars Edie Falco ("The Sopranos," "Nurse Jackie") and Matt Bomer ("Magic Mike," "American Horror Story: Hotel").

"'Vulture Club' follows the singular journey of a woman abandoned by her government who finds community in the most unexpected places," Keshavarz said in a statement.

"It's an honor to work with Susan Sarandon, Edie Falco and Matt Bomer who are the incredible talents and an innovator like YouTube to tell this timely story."

Online entertainment magazine IndieWire hailed the move by YouTube Red -- the Google-owned company's 10-a-month streaming service -- as "a significant strategy shift."

It moved into theatrical distribution with sci-fi comedy "Lazer Team" in January 2016, but that was a low-budget project with an unknown cast that failed to make a dent at the box office.

"Vulture Club," with its all-star cast, belongs in a different league alongside two other recent YouTube Red acquisitions -- Eminem's satirical hip-hop drama "Bodied" and Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!"

While the Eminem movie is also bound for theatrical release, YouTube dropped the Spurlock sequel after the filmmaker admitted to sexual misconduct and harassment in the past.

YouTube Red said principal photography on "Vulture Club" was complete, but gave few details on its theatrical release, other than confirming its big-screen debut would precede its streaming release.

Netflix has shown little regard for the perceived sanctity of cinema, annoying some filmmakers, notably Christopher Nolan, and sparking calls for bans from film festivals by debuting its movies online only or at the same time as in theaters.

Amazon Studios, on the other hand, has partnered with Bleecker Street, Lionsgate and other entertainment companies to give its original movies a theatrical window of several weeks ahead of their internet release.

The company is now accepted in the industry as a conventional movie studio, its back catalogue including Oscar nominees and winners such as "The Big Sick," "Manchester by the Sea" and "The Salesman."