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By now we pretty much know what television shows we can expect from Apple TV+ when it launches next month; the company has already not only announced its November lineup, but has previewed and released trailers for almost all of them, from the Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon led drama The Morning Show to its Sesame Workshop developed kids’ shows, Ghostwriter and Helpsters.
What we’ve seen less about, however, is Apple’s upcoming feature films. While Apple has quietly listed two new films in its TV app, it hasn’t been promoting them to quite the same degree as its original shows.
Apple Original Movies?
Apple first feature film, The Elephant Queen is actually considerably less ambitious than most of its projects. Rather than being a truly original Apple production, The Elephant Queen was an indie film that debuted at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, after which Apple simply snapped up the rights to bring it to worldwide audiences.
With The Elephant Queen expected to be the first feature-length film to arrive on Apple TV+ when it launches on November 1, Apple has just shared its first “Official Movie Trailer” for the documentary, an inspirational story that follows an elephant matriarch, Athena, who must lead her herd across the African savannah in search of food and water.
Although it may arguably be a bit disingenuous under the circumstances, Apple opens the trailer with its tagline “An Apple Original”; however, it also acknowledges in the description that the movie was previously shown at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, the 2018 BFI London Film Festival, and the 2019 Sundance Film Festival — albeit after Apple had acquired the rights in the latter two showings.
Coming Sooner to a Theatre Near You
Apple seems to be planning to release all of its feature-length films in theatres before they come to Apple TV+, and it looks like The Elephant Queen is no exception. According to a report from Variety last month, Apple has already premiered the new documentary in New York and its expected to open in theatres next Friday, Oct. 18, two weeks before the launch of Apple TV+.
It’s unclear how widespread the theatrical release will be — documentaries aren’t exactly headline theatre fare — but it sounds like Apple and its partner indie studio A24 will be aiming to get it into at least one or two theatres in as many cities as possible.
In bringing feature films to the big screen first, Apple hopes to not only ensure eligibility for Academy Awards, but also wants to show Hollywood that it’s serious about its feature film productions, rather than simply offering up the kind of token gesture that its rivals have been accused of making in order to meet minimum eligibility requirements.
More Films Coming
While The Elephant Queen may seem like a rather lacklustre entry for Apple’s debut on the big screen, the company appears to be following its usual measured approach, leading with a few smaller films while it finishes up production of some bigger projects that we’ll likely see next year.
Following The Elephant Queen, Apple also has Hala coming up next, which is another movie that Apple picked up elsewhere, in this case the 2019 Sundance Film Festival back in January. The coming-of-age drama was produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and follows a 17-year-old Muslim girl who is caught between her traditional family life and her modern high school. While Apple hasn’t yet announced any official release dates for Hala, Variety reports that it’s expected to land in theatres on Nov. 22 with an Apple TV+ release “sometime in December.”
After these, Apple is expected to release its first truly original movie, The Banker, which seems like it will be a more typical Hollywood movie, with Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie playing in the true story of two African American men who managed to succeed in building a real estate and banking empire that helped their communities flourish in an era of rampant racism. This one is expected to come to theatres on Dec. 6 following a headline-making debut on the closing gala night of the AFI Film Festival, however it likely won’t be appearing on Apple TV+ until at least January.
Moving forward, however, it’s possible that Apple may spread out the timeframe between theatrical and Apple TV+ releases even farther, with some sources suggesting that it could be looking for up to a three-month exclusivity with theatres for some of its bigger films, again in order to appease Hollywood heavyweights who still insist that their work be shown on the big screen.