Amazon Studios gets Spike Lee's next film, 'Chiraq,' report says

Word of a possible deal with Lee follows the news from January that Woody Allen will write and direct his first-ever television series for Amazon.

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CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
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Spike Lee at his Brooklyn studio, 40 Acres and a Mule Studios, with a list of some of his movies. Screenshot by Michelle Meyers/CNET

Amazon's war with Netflix to attract top-notch Hollywood talent is heating up.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Spike Lee has signed a deal to make Amazon the home for his next film, "Chiraq," Hollywood-tracking news site TheWrap is reporting, citing people who claim to have knowledge of the project. Few details are known about the film right now, but it could reportedly star celebrities including "Entourage" star Jeremy Piven, recording artists Common and Kanye West, and actor Samuel L. Jackson.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

If Amazon has snagged the next Spike Lee movie, it would be yet another coup for the company's Studios division. That division, which acquires content for Amazon's Prime Instant Video streaming service, has been actively targeting big-name celebrities over the last few years to counter Netflix's own rush on top talent. In January, Amazon announced that it had signed a deal with Woody Allen that will see the famed director write and direct a television series, his first ever.

That move was seen as a shot over the bow of Netflix, which has attracted big-time talent including actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Chelsea Handler. Netflix's deal with Handler will see her produce a documentary-style show exclusively on its network. The show will join several other original series on Netflix, including the popular "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black."

Amazon has its own slate of original series, including "Transparent" and "Alpha House." Both Amazon and Netflix shows went home with Golden Globe awards this year -- Amazon's "="" won"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="ae3b44f8-22de-4077-aac1-9234227f4a18" slug="amazon-netflix-score-at-golden-globes" link-text="" section="news" title="Amazon rides 'Transparent' to victory at Golden Globes" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"ae3b44f8-22de-4077-aac1-9234227f4a18","slug":"amazon-netflix-score-at-golden-globes","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"online"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Tech^Services and Software^Online","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> for best TV series, musical or comedy, while both "Transparent" star Jeffrey Tambor and "House of Cards" star Spacey each won best actor awards.

TheWrap suggested that Lee's upcoming film is based on the city of Chicago. "Chiraq" has become a term synonymous with Chicago and the city's issues with gun violence.

Lee is one of the most celebrated filmmakers of his generation, whose credits include "Malcolm X," "Do the Right Thing," and "Get On the Bus."

In addition to securing talent, Amazon and Netflix also have been acquiring exclusive streaming rights to a wide range of content over the past few years. Last year, for example, Amazon got its hands on the streaming rights to HBO programming. In October, Netflix announced that it would stream reruns of the popular TV series "Friends."

Still, the companies aren't alone in their ongoing battle for positioning. Hulu Plus, another streaming provider, has a set of original and exclusive content, and YouTube has been making a significant push for more professional programming to boost its revenue and attract audiences that have migrated to Netflix and to Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Amazon's video service comes free with a subscription to the company's $99 Prime service, which includes music streaming via Prime Music, photo-sharing via Prime Photos and free two-day shipping of products bought in Amazon's online retail store.