Amazon will start streaming Manchester by the Sea on its Prime Video service in Canada on March 21, six weeks before a planned video streaming debut stateside.
An Amazon spokesperson tells The Hollywood Reporter the timing of the U.S. theatrical release means Canadians will be the first to stream and download the Matt Damon-produced drama starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler.
Manchester by the Sea will be available to Prime Video customers in the U.S. on May 5. The family drama gathered gold dust at the recent Oscars with a best actor trophy for Affleck and a best original screenplay honor for Kenneth Lonergan.
The windowing issues behind the Canadian-streaming head start follow Amazon spending $10 million for the film's distribution rights at Sundance. Amazon then partnered with Roadside Attraction to distribute Manchester by the Sea for an awards-season theatrical run from November 2016, and added more theaters to go nationwide as the pic rode an Oscar wave.
In Manchester by the Sea, Affleck plays a man grieving over the death of his brother as he learns he is supposed to take care of his nephew. But rather than go with its usual 90-day theatrical release before the film becomes available to stream on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., Americans are getting more time to see the movie in theaters.
Allowing Prime Video members in Canada first access to stream and download Manchester by the Sea marks a rare reversal of online fortune for Canadians, who usually see hotly anticipated Hollywood movie and TV titles debut stateside on Netflix, Amazon and other video streamers before reaching the market north of the border.
Netflix had its own windowing issues when it streamed Star Wars: The Force Awakens in Canada and not in the U.S. due to the timing of Disney's pay TV distribution deals being up for grabs.
For Netflix and Amazon, nabbing worldwide rights to acquired and original programming is a big deal as they continue expanding worldwide. While both streaming giants spend big for award season contenders, Amazon has stood out in giving films a full theatrical run before making them available to its Prime subscribers, a promise that gives it the upper hand with some filmmakers.