Amazon launches film production website

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Inc is making a foray into film production with a new website that allows would-be filmmakers to submit scripts and movies that could land on the silver screen.

Amazon Studios, in a partnership with Time Warner Inc’s Warner Bros on Wednesday, is offering almost $3 million for “top submissions” of scripts and test movies received by December 31, 2011 and plans to develop the projects as commercial feature films.

Full length movies will be tested for feedback at an early stage. Warner Bros will have first rights to produce the films, although Amazon can approach other studios if Warner Bros rejects the projects.

A spokesperson for Time Warner was not immediately available for comment.

Amazon, which sells a variety of products and has a streaming TV and movie service, faces intense competition from the likes of Netflix Inc which is trying to dominate the market for online movie rentals.

Meanwhile Apple Inc’s Apple TV, which includes Amazon’s video-on-demand service, and Google TV, are scrambling to get access to original programing.

Indeed, in August Netflix struck a five-year $1 billion exclusive deal with pay TV channel Epix for online rights that allows its members to watch new films from the three studios -- Viacom’s Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Lions Gate Entertainment -- that own Epix.

Amazon’s expertise is delivering hard goods like books, music, noted BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis. “It’s behind the ball in digital delivery,” he said. “You have to start playing catch up. One way is to get original content.”

Reporting by Jennifer Saba; Editing by Derek Caney