Amazon may be getting into the movie theater business. Reports about it may have many people thinking about entertainment options of the film and television programming variety. But if the track record of the company’s business behavior is any indication, Amazon could well be priming for activity of a different sort: esports and video gaming.
News of a potential foray into the movie theater space comes from a Bloomberg report that places Amazon in the mix of buyers interested in acquiring Landmark Theatres. A move into movie theaters can be seen as a reasonable next step along the lines that Amazon has taken into branded bookstores, no-cashier food and beverage Amazon Go locations, and Whole Foods grocery stores. As many analysts and observers figure, these pursuits in brick-and-mortar are all about driving Prime membership and purchases through it.
While movie theaters are a viable distribution channel for maintaining and expanding Prime business, Amazon doesn’t need that type of space to deliver feature-length film and television content to customers. It doesn’t need the locations to sell related product purchases, either. It could, though, use that type of venue for things that have less to with film productions from Amazon Studios than content being streamed through Twitch.
Landmark Theatres, which boasts more than 50 theaters in 27 markets across the United States, is known for offering filmgoers access to “avant-garde films” in an atmosphere that includes deluxe seating, digital display and sound, and gourmet concession options. In addition to regular and private screenings, the venues market availability for special events. Among those is the opportunity to “play games on the big screen,” where video gamers can bring their personal systems to the theater and have it hooked up to Landmark’s equipment for the “ultimate gaming experience.”
Last year, a Landmark location in Illinois converted auditorium space into an esports arcade and video gaming center inside one of its auditoriums. According to a local news report, it included 33 PC gaming stations, 16 Xbox One stations, and 24 Playstation 4 stations, along with capabilities to stream Twitch and other content on the big screen. It is one example of the shift occurring as industry, market, and demographic changes bring new meaning to what people expect of movie theaters.
Whether Amazon is actually in the running to purchase Landmark—or even at all interested in the prospect of it—remains to be seen. So, too, does the extent to which esports factors into overall plans. What to look for in the meantime, however, it how a deal like this one fits with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s commitment to the company providing “a great customer experience” and inventing “new options that nobody’s ever thought of before and see if customers like them.”
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