Following a rocky start, it looks like Apple’s first feature film, The Banker is now ready to make its theatrical debut this winter, with Variety reporting that the film will arrive in theatres in early March, followed by a release on Apple TV+ later that month.
The film, which stars Samuel L. Jackson and Anthony Mackie, was originally expected to debut last November at the AFI Film Festival, where Apple had landed the coveted closing-night gala spot to show off its first major theatrical release. However, Apple was forced to pull the film only a day before its premiere after some potentially damaging allegations surfaced surrounding the story behind the film and one of its executive producers. Instead, the AFI Fest closing-night spot instead went to Netflix’s Marriage Story.
Following the cancellation of its film festival premiere, Apple announced that The Banker also wouldn’t be coming to theatres on Dec. 6 as originally scheduled either, and that it was being delayed indefinitely while Apple took some time to look into the concerns that had been raised around the film.
Allegations of Abuse and Inaccuracy
The Banker tells the story of two real-life African American men, Bernard Garrett, Sr. (Mackie) and Joe Morris (Jackson) who fought against rampant racism in the 1960’s to built a real estate and banking empire that would help their communities flourish at a time when it was impossible for racial minorities to get a fair shake from the predominantly white banking system. As the saga surrounding the film unfolded, however, it appeared that the daughters of the real Bernard Garrett Sr. had raised some issues with both the portrayal of their father’s story as well as making accusations of abuse against their half-brother, Bernard Garrett Jr., who they say sexually molested them over the course of several years.
Bernard Garrett Jr. served as a consultant and co-producer during production and was also involved in several promotional activities surrounding the film prior to its expected release, however it appears that his name disappeared from publicity materials shortly before the allegations surfaced. The official reason given was that he had chosen to step down as a producer because he wanted to ensure the movie focused on his father’s story, and not on him.
The allegations of abuse are being made specifically against Garrett Jr, and both sisters also made it clear that their father had no knowledge of what was going on, meaning that nobody portrayed in the film is specifically implicated, however the women also maintain that the film isn’t an accurate portrayal of their father’s life, specifically omitting the girls and their mother — Garrett Sr.’s second wife — and essentially pretending that the daughters didn’t exist.
On the basis of the allegations against Garrett Jr., and the inaccuracies in the story, the daughter leading the charge, Cynthia Garrett, had contacted Apple via her attorney to request that the company cancel the movie entirely, insisting that it’s the fruit of a poisoned tree, rather than simply an omission due to creative license. Romulus, the company producing the film responded by saying that they planned to simply change the film to describe it as “based on true events” rather than actually reflecting a true story, however Apple itself declined to comment on the future of the film other than to say that it would be taking “some time to look into these matters and determine the best next steps.”
This week, however, Apple told Variety that after taking some time to review the situation — and likely to let things cool down a bit — it now intends to move forward with the film, scheduling it for a theatrical release in March.
We created Apple TV Plus as a home for stories that matter and believe ‘The Banker,’ inspired by the brave actions of Bernard Garrett Sr. and Joe Morris, two African American businessmen who brought about positive social change, is one of those stories.Apple TV+ spokesperson
Apple added that it wanted to “take the time to understand the situation at hand,” and that it reviewed the documentation of the filmmakers’ research and other information that it had available, and after due consideration, it “decided to make this important and enlightening film available to viewers.” It’s uncertain at this point whether Cynthia Garrett or other members of the family plan to pursue any legal action, but it seems clear that Apple and Romulus are prepared to face anything that might come from this.
The Banker is scheduled to land in theatres on March 6, 2020, and will be available on Apple TV+ two weeks later, on March 20, 2020.