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Amazon Acquires Rights to 40 Films From SXSW, Paying $1.9 Million-Plus in Cash Bonuses (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 5/10/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

Amazon has swept up streaming rights to 40 films that screened the 2017 SXSW Film Festival — including “Most Beautiful Island,” the Grand Jury Award winner for narrative feature — saying it will pay out at least $1.9 million in upfront cash bonuses for the titles.

The ecommerce giant snagged the SXSW selections through Amazon Video Direct’s Film Festival Stars program, designed to be a streamlined, no-haggle way for independent filmmakers to get paid for digital distribution. Amazon acquired 15 films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival under the program; it extended a similar offer to entrants in the Tribeca Film Festival and plans to take it to the Toronto International Film Festival, too.

Since Amazon launched AVD a year ago, the company says users have streamed “billions of minutes” of content distributed through the program and Amazon has paid “tens of millions” of dollars in royalties to distributors, filmmakers and content creators across genres including independent films, comedy, classic TV, foreign and children’s programming. The payouts included $12 million in bonuses under the AVD Stars program, which divvies up a pool of cash each month to the top-performing content providers for the period.

Under the AVD’s Film Festival Stars offer for SXSW films, rights holders are required to license their titles to Amazon for streaming exclusively on Prime Video for a 24-month window starting prior to the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. Amazon expects to finalize the contracts for the 40 films in the next few weeks.

Among the 40 titles that opted in are festival award-winners “Most Beautiful Island,” a gritty drama starring and written and directed by Ana Asensio (pictured above) about an undocumented immigrant struggling to get by in NYC; “The Light of the Moon,” SXSW Audience Award for narrative feature; and “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” SXSW Audience Award for documentary spotlight. Other films include “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong,” special jury recognition for best ensemble; “I Am Another You,” special jury recognition for excellence in documentary storytelling; and “Maineland,” special jury recognition for excellence in observational cinema.

Under the Amazon Video Direct FFS program, rights holders who opt in to the terms receive a one-time, non-recoupable cash bonus up to $100,000 based on qualifying categories. The filmmakers or distributors can use that money at their discretion, but it’s intended to go toward marketing the film in pre-SVOD windows. Films are required to be windowed into Prime Video within 11 months of the festival’s conclusion.

In addition, Amazon pays royalties to participating rights holders for content they make available through Amazon Video Direct, based on how much customers watch the title. Under the Film Festival Stars program, AVD offers double the regular royalty rate (30 cents per hour viewed in the U.S.; 12 cents per hour viewed outside the U.S.).

Here’s the full list of 40 films from SXSW that have opted in to the Amazon Video Direct program: “Inheritance,” “Assholes,” “Win By Fall,” “Signature Move,” “Like Me,” “Sylvio,” “Satan Said Dance,” “Paa Joe & The Lion,” “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong,” “Maineland,” “The Cloud Forest,” “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” “Bad Lucky Goat,” “Bill Frisell, A Portrait,” “Divine Divas,” “Pornocracy,” “Tormentero,” “Inflame,” “The Secret Life of Lance Letscher,” “I Am Another You,” “Most Beautiful Island,” “A Critically Endangered Species,” “Dara Ju,” “Spettacolo,” “Ramblin’ Freak,” “DRIB,” “Two Pigeons,” “Going to Brazil,” “Daphne,” “Meatball Machine Kodoku,” “The Honor Farm,” “The Light of the Moon,” “Flesh and Blood,” “Fits and Starts,” “La Barracuda,” “MFA,” “California Dreams,” “Easy Living,” “Let There Be Light,” and “Infinity Baby.”

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