The release of original films through Netflix and Amazon seem similar at first, but they are vastly different. Both companies market to different audiences. While Netflix aims its films at an audience with convenience as their main goal. Amazon seems to aim more at an audience where the experience of going out to see a film is of more importance.
Amazon markets their original films firstly with theatrical releases. This works well to build word-of-mouth, especially in critic circles, where the films are taken more seriously and given more awards attention.
Netflix continues to distribute their films primarily online, even as they mention wanting to be considered for Academy Awards, where your film must have a theatrical release prior to an online release. These films must run for seven consecutive days, at least three times a day, with one screening between 6pm and 10pm.
When Netflix decides to have a theatrical release of a film, it is newsworthy. Netflix decided to give a theatrical release to their film Mudbound, in an effort to be Academy Award eligible, which in this case, worked in their favor.
Amazon primarily releases their original films theatrically before giving them further life through streaming availability on Amazon Prime. This release structure works better for people who desire the theatrical experience, yet it still satisfies consumers who want convenience by having online releases in a shortened length of time.
Both of these structures can work, but I do feel the Amazon structure does more to preserve the importance of film. With Netflix wanting more Academy Award acceptance, they should release more of their films theatrically, instead of picking and choosing films they feel are what the Academy commonly awards. Amazon Studios is responsible for the Best Original Screenplay nomination The Big Sick and Best Documentary nomination I Am Not Your Negro. Amazon Studios is also responsible for critically acclaimed films such as Paterson, The Lost City of Z, The Handmaiden, Love & Friendship, and many more.
Netflix has such a reputation of not giving films theatrical releases, that people become upset when they learn Netflix buys the distribution rights to a film they were eagerly awaiting. Many film-goers were upset when Netflix bid for the rights to distribute God Particle, which is now titled The Cloverfield Paradox and was distributed online immediately after the super bowl, with barely any warning. Many fans of the franchise, as well as new fans after being wooed by the previous installment 10 Cloverfield Lane were anticipating seeing this film in a theater. Yes, many fans were excited they could just log into Netflix to see this installment, but this type of releasing pushes others away, while focusing on one specific audience. But the audience at which Netflix aims their releasing strategy is the audience of the future.
Amazon and Netflix are going after different aspects of the film-going public. Netflix is pushing towards a future of films designed for streaming, mystery releases, and what else the future holds, while Amazon is trying to preserve the film-going experience that very well may end up stuck in the past.
Both of these distribution tactics are successful marketing adventures, capturing the exact audiences for which they are aimed.