Although veteran Hollywood icon Tom Hanks expressed heartbreak that his WW2 blockbuster Greyhound was making its debut on Apple TV+ instead of on the big screen, he certainly shouldn’t have anything to be disappointed about now, as by all reports the film debuted to a landmark audience this past weekend.
Not that it’s been much of a horse race, of course, but according to sources close to Apple, Greyhound was in fact the largest opening weekend release ever for Apple TV+.
The news comes from an exclusive Deadline report, and while it shouldn’t be any surprise that a major Tom Hanks film that debuted solely on Apple TV+ would be such a big hit compared to the relatively more pedestrian fare that the service has debuted thus far, what’s considerably more interesting is that sources say that the opening weekend audience for the film actually rivalled that of a summer theatrical box office hit.
This is especially significant for Hanks and his studio that’s behind the film, since Greyhound was originally supposed to be a theatrical blockbuster until COVID-19 put a monkey wrench into those plans, forcing Sony Pictures, which had originally planned to debut the film back in May or June, was forced to choose between delaying it much more significantly or farming it out to a streaming service so that people would actually be able to see it before the end of 2020.
Apple wouldn’t comment on what movie or TV series previously held the record, although rumour has it that back in May the Chris Evans-led Defending Jacob broke the record that was believed to previously be held by The Morning Show.
Drawing in New Users
What’s even more significant is that sources say that the debut of Greyhound actually drew in a massive number of new users to the Apple TV+ service, with about 30% of those who watched the movie seemingly signing up just to do so.
Of course, Apple TV+ still offers a free seven-day trial, so it remains to be seen how many of those folks may have signed up for free just to watch Hanks in his portrayal of a U.S. Navy Captain during the Battle of the Atlantic, but in the very least they’re getting a taste of the service, and may be encouraged to check out what else is available on it, and perhaps stick around for a bit longer to watch through other big hits such as The Morning Show or Defending Jacob.
There’s also the matter of all of those users who are still on the one-year free trial that Apple began offering back in November for new hardware customers. However, since those customers only have 90 days from when they purchase a new device to take advantage of the free offer, it’s likely that most of those folks would be included in the other 70% of viewers who weren’t otherwise new to the service.
Ultimately, drawing in new users is only part of the struggle, since for Apple TV+ to succeed, the company is going to need to actually maintain those eyeballs, and most importantly turn all of the ones that are currently enjoying the service for free into actual paying customers — a process that won’t begin until this November when the first wave of free customers are forced to decide between paying up or moving on.
Still, Greyhound shows that Apple is off to a really powerful start, and it’s definitely not the only thing that company has in its arsenal of blockbusters, which may encourage users to stick around just to make sure they’re ready for whatever is coming next. Apple has already acquired Killers of the Flower Moon, which will be directed by Martin Scorsese and star Robert De Niro and Leonard DiCaprio and has been described as “one of the highest profile films in Hollywood,” along with the upcoming Will Smith film, Emancipation, in what was the largest amount of money ever paid to acquire a film festival pic; and of course these are just the projects we know about.
More than Movies
It’s also not just about movies, either, as Apple is laying the groundwork for some pretty epic TV shows, including its multi-million dollar take on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation. Many other studios have tried and failed to translate the epic sci-fi trilogy onto the big screen, so this is a landmark project; it could easily become Apple’s Game of Thrones moment if the company can actually pull it off, and it’s already begun releasing the very first teaser trailers.
Then there’s Masters of the Air. While Apple has yet to say anything publicly about this project, it’s clearly going to be another hit flagship series. It’s the third instalment in the WW2 mini-series’ products by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks that began with Band of Brothers and continued with Pacific, and will also be the first to be produced in Apple’s own studio, under the direct supervision of Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, the dynamic duo who came over from their ten-year tenure as co-Presidents of Sony Pictures Television to head up Apple’s Worldwide Video division.