Following exec shakeup, Amazon Studios announces expansion plans

Amazon today announced plans to expand its TV and movie division, Amazon Studios, which includes relocating to a new location in Culver City, California. The physical move coincides with Amazon’s plans to increase hiring across new roles in creative, technical, marketing and legal, the company said.

According to Amazon’s website, there are currently 84 openings in Santa Monica for Amazon Studios.

The announcement follows quite a bit housecleaning at the executive level at Amazon Studios in recent days, including most notably the departure of studio chief Roy Price among harassment allegations. After Price, Amazon Studios’ head of unscripted, Conrad Riggs, also left; as did head of comedy, drama and VR, Joe Lewis.

Variety reported Lewis had been under internal investigation for his behavior and reportedly pressured producers into casting his girlfriend, Yara Martinez, in Amazon’s original series, “The Tick.” Riggs, meanwhile, had helped Amazon bring former “Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson to Prime Video, Variety also said, but the show had not lived up to the hype. Other unscripted series failed, too, including “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story” and “Eat the World With Emeril Lagasse,” the report noted.

In addition, Apple this month hired away Amazon Studio exec Morgan Wandell in its push for scripted programming. Wandall had most recently served as Amazon’s Head of International Series.

Despite these shake-ups among the exec ranks, the Amazon Studios division itself is still growing. Amazon says its new office space at The Culver Studios will occupy more than 280,000 square feet, and will house not only Amazon Studios, but also IMDb, Amazon Video and World Wide Advertising.

The studio space was originally developed by silent movie pioneer Thomas H. Ince, and has been home to productions including Gone with the Wind and Citizen Kane, Amazon noted in today’s announcement.

“We are very excited about being a part of 100 years of movie and TV history at The Culver Studios,” said Albert Cheng, Head of Amazon Studios, in a statement. (Cheng has been serving as interim head of Amazon Studios, following Roy Price’s suspension.)  “Most importantly, this new LA-based office will give us the much-needed space for our team to work and grow so we can keep bringing Prime Members the very best in series and movies,” Cheng added.

Amazon has already been making a name for itself in Hollywood, with Emmy wins for shows like “Transparent,” as well as The Man in the High Castle and Mozart in the Jungle. Amazon also took home the first best picture nom for any streaming service with Manchester by the Sea, which later won. However, it hasn’t had as many hits – critical or otherwise – as rival Netflix. Many people see Prime Video as a nice-to-have upgrade with their Prime subscription, but not necessarily something that could stand on its own as a Netflix rival.

However, Amazon is increasing its investment in streaming, to further challenge Netflix and others. Its $4.5 billion budget in 2017 is due to increase next year, Variety has said.

The company also recently announced it would operate more like a traditional Hollywood studio by handling its own theatrical distributions.

Amazon said today it employs over 700 people in Santa Monica, California and will begin moving into the new office space, located at 9336 West Washington Boulevard in Culver City, at the end of this year.

Additional reporting: Matthew Lynley

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