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In a major Hollywood upset, Apple has just scored a serious coup for its Apple TV+ streaming service, snagging the rights to a new Tom Hanks led World War II naval drama that was originally expected to be released by Sony Pictures next month.
According to an exclusive report by Deadline, the film “abruptly changed course” this week to “berth at Apple” (we’re trying to resist groaning at the Naval puns here), and is now the biggest feature film commitment Apple has made thus far, with reports that Apple paid close to $70 million to acquire the film from Sony in a heated bidding war.
Greyhound, which was written by Tom Hanks will also see him in the leading role, playing George Krause, a career officer who is finally given command of a Navy destroyer, the Greyhound, during the famous Battle of the Atlantic. By all reports the film is more of a character piece than a traditional war movie, as Krause fights not only with the enemy forces, but also struggles with his own self-doubts to prove that he’s worthy of the responsibility he’s been given.
Sony Pictures originally planned to debut the film in theatres on May 8th, but the ongoing global pandemic forced the company to push that back to a June 19th Father’s Day weekend theatrical release before finally giving up and realizing that theatres likely weren’t going to open to capacity crowds any time soon, and if it pushed it back any further, it would risk losing it in a sea of other films that were being similarly delayed. So if the movie was going to debut properly, Sony realized, it would need to do so on a streaming service.
As a result, Sony began quietly shopping the film around to some of the usual streaming giants — specifically Netflix and Apple, according to CNBC — and Apple clearly decided it wasn’t about to let this one go, especially at a time when it’s struggling to keep a pipeline of content available.
Apple is ‘Becoming Aggressive’
This acquisition makes Greyhound one of the most significant movies to land on any streaming service in recent history — it’s the first time Tom Hanks has put out one of his films directly to streaming, where it will premiere in more than 100 countries, and according to Deadline, Hanks is basically testing the waters with this release, so there’s a lot of pressure for Apple to do well in getting it out there.
It is the latest in a growing indication that Apple is making its move, and becoming as aggressive as any streamer or studio in auctions for the acquisition of films and TV projects.Deadline
According to CNBC, the movie cost about $50 million to produce, and Apple paid around $70 million for 15 years of exclusive streaming rights to the film, although Sony will retain the right to distribute the movie in China, where it may still show up in theatres. The report from CNBC also notes that Hanks had to personally approve the deal between Sony and Apple before it closed.
Not only is the new film one of the most high-profile acquisitions that Apple has made for its streaming service so far, but it’s also a good fit with the kind of prestigious content it’s looking for, both because of the reputation of Tom Hanks, but also the World War II story line.
Last fall, we saw a report that Apple had also secured the rights to produce Masters of the Air, the third instalment in the World War II miniseries saga that began with Band of Brothers and continued with The Pacific — a series that also happens to be led by Tom Hanks alongside Steven Spielberg. Masters of the Air has the potential to be another flagship series for Apple, and it’s also slated to be the first series to be produced in Apple’s own studio, but with pretty much all of its original productions on hiatus as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s uncertain when we’ll actually see the debut of the new miniseries, but it’s clear that a blockbuster war flick like Greyhound will do a good job of filling the gap while also whetting people’s appetites for more.
Apple also undoubtedly hopes that a major film release like this will convince more people that Apple TV+ is worth subscribing to as a source for premium, quality content, especially if it continues to nab exclusive rights to major motion pictures that viewers won’t be able to see anywhere else.
Apple has not yet announced when Greyhound will be released on Apple TV+, although we expect it should debut soon, as it’s been ready to go for a theatrical release for a while, and one of the reasons Sony began shopping it arond was because they didn’t want to risk delaying it for much longer.