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It began with Killers of the Flower Moon and the landmark deal that Apple made to bring one of the highest profile films in Hollywood to its Apple TV+ streaming service, and now it looks like the company is taking the next step, in an even bigger deal with director Martin Scorsese to bring his future projects directly to the fledgling streaming service.
According to Deadline, Apple has inked what’s called a “first-look” deal with Scorsese which will see his Sikelia Productions company teamed up with Apple for the next few years, with the legendary filmmaker producing and directing several film and television projects exclusively for Apple TV+.
In fact, it turns out that Killers of the Flower Moon was really just the first step in the deal, which was already in the works when it was announced in May that the film — which is not only directed by Scorsese but will star Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead roles — would become an “Apple Original.”
While it’s not clear exactly what Apple paid for the rights to Killers of the Flower Moon, it was originally parked at Paramount, which agreed to let the producers shop it around to streaming services after it became clear that it could cost upwards of $200 million to produce. Of course, that’s pocket change to a company that’s well on its way to being the world’s first $2 trillion corporation, and Apple was easily able to beat out not only Netflix but also traditional studios like MGM and Universal in winning the rights, although it’s also likely that there may have been factors involved other than money, such as Apple’s eagerness for its flagship films to actually debut properly on the big screen, and not just get the token runs that Netflix puts up to meet the minimum Oscar qualifications.
In the case of Killers of the Flower Moon, the film will still see a theatrical release, carried around the globe by Paramount, which actually works into Apple’s objectives, since the company fully intends to run its feature films in theatres, so why not let an established production company do the heavy lifting to get them there. Regardless, however, Apple will still be backing the film both financially and creatively, and it will be released under the Apple banner.
As for Scorsese’s production company, Sikelia Productions, it was also been tied to Paramount for years after being established by Scorsese back in 2003, and it manages and produces all of Scorsese’s projects, including 2019’s The Irishman — one of Netflix’s crown jewels last year — along with other classics such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Hugo, The Departed, The Aviator, and of course many more.
Scorsese has produced a number of significant documentaries as well, including The 50 Year Argument, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, and more, and is said to be working on at least three others that will likely now make their debuts on Apple TV+: An Afternoon with SCTV plus an Untitled Fran Lebowitz project and an Untitled David Johansen project.
Apple’s deal with Scorsese is actually the latest in a series of moves that emphasize how the nascent streaming provider is determined to focus on extreme quality over quantity, making sure that while it will likely never have a catalog of the most movies on a streaming service, it’s almost certain to have a catalog of the best movies.
Already Apple has spent over $70 million to acquire the rights to the Tom Hanks film Greyhound, which by all reports had a landmark first weekend opening even by box office standards, and it’s also committed $120 million to producing Will Smith’s Emancipation, an action thriller set in the dark days of slavery in the United States.
Apple has also signed several other high-profile first look deals in recent months, including one with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way, which is undoubtedly also tied to the deal for Killers of the Flower Moon, plus Idris Elba’s Green Door Pictures, Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions, A24 and Imagine Documentaries, and of course its deals with Sesame Workshop and Peanuts, which have already produced some significant kids shows for the streaming service.