Amazon Studios movie exec Ted Hope has left that position for a multi-year first look producing deal with Amazon. The official word is that Hope decided to abandon the prestigious job due to a primal itch to get back into hands-on producing, which he did for years at other outfits.
The general presumption, of course, is that Hope was pushed out by his Amazon superior Jennifer Salke, mainly because his Amazon track record was colored by investments in too many under-performers. Because Ted’s picks were too indie-quirky. Which resulted in Joe and Jane Popcorn saying “Uhm…what?”
Hope joined Amazon five and one-third years ago (i.e., in January 2015) as the head of development, production and acquisitions. In January ’18 he began serving as the co-chief of Amazon movies, reporting to Salke.
2016 was Hope’s finest Amazon year with the release of Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea (worldwide earnings of nearly $79 million) and Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman. Manchester won two Oscars (Best Original Screenplay + Best Actor for Casey Affleck), and Salesman won for Best Foreign Language Film. But except for Pawel Pawlikowski‘s Cold War (’18), a well-reviewed Oscar contender, it was all downhill after that.
Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (’17) was and is a first-rate arthouse assassin flick, and Joaquin Phoenix won the Best Actor prize in Cannes (yay), but Joe and Jane said “naah.” Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot (’17), a recovery-from physical-trauma flick that I mostly liked, also sputtered with the hoi polloi–
Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying (opened in Nov. ’17) didn’t do much review-wise or commercially ($965K worldwide).
In 2018 Hope got all hot and bothered about Mike Leigh‘s Peterloo, which also fizzled with a lousy $152K in North America and $1.9 million worldwide. Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy (’18) was a moderately weak sister with worldwide earnings of $16.5 million. Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria (which broke my heart) opened in late ’18 and ended up with $7.9 million worldwide.
Amazon ran aground big-time in 2019 with four pricey Sundance acquisitions — Late Night, Honey Boy, Brittany Runs A Marathon and The Report — all shortfalling with the meat-and-potatoes public.
Cold War, a 2018 release, lost the foreign-language Oscar to Roma in early ’19, true, but it was a film everyone had to see. It was the most stunningly photographed black-and-white film in a long time, or at least since Pawlikowski’s Ida.
If I was running Amazon instead of Salke, I would’ve said to Hope, “Ted…these films are critically respected and all, but they’re mainly aimed at guys like yourself and your ahead-of-the-curve friends and a certain percentage of the Academy. What about Amazon…you know, releasing at least an occasional film that Average Joes want to see?”