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Amazon is getting into the movie business this year for theaters and streaming

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Amazon is expanding Amazon Studios, its production division for television programming, into movie production this year with original films for theaters and Amazon Prime Instant Video, the company announced today.

Amazon Studios' goal is to produce "close to twelve movies a year," said Roy Price, the group's vice president, in a prepared statement. Those films "will focus on unique stories, voices, and characters from top and up-and-coming creators," according to Amazon.

There's often a long delay between a film's theatrical release and its arrival on video-on-demand services — the lag time is typically between 39 and 52 weeks, according to Amazon. But the company plans to bring Amazon Original Movies to U.S. Prime Instant Video subscribers four to eight weeks after they premiere in theaters.

Amazon Studios will both produce and acquire movies, with Ted Hope serving as head of production for Amazon Original Movies. Hope is a renowned producer of independent films such as Happiness, 21 Grams and Adventureland. Good Machine, the production company he co-founded, was acquired by Universal Pictures in 2002 and became Focus Features after a merger with USA Films.

"Audiences already recognize that Amazon has raised the bar with productions in the episodic realm, tackling bold material in unique ways and collaborating with top talent, both established and emerging. To help carry the torch into the feature film world for such an innovative company is a tremendous opportunity and responsibility," said Hope.

Amazon Studios garnered critical acclaim this past year for television shows such as Jill Soloway's Transparent, a dark comedy about a family in which the father (Jeffrey Tambor) reveals that he is transgender. Transparent won two Golden Globe Awards earlier this month, the first major awards for an Amazon Studios production, and a second season is coming soon. Amazon Studios' expansion into original movies follows a similar announcement from Netflix, which said last October that it will begin its original film program with a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2015.