Apple Renews Its Focus on Blockbuster Theatrical Movie Releases

The company plans to spend $1 billion per year to bring its films to the big screen
Movie Theatre Seating With Snacks Credit: wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock
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It looks like Apple’s movie ambitions are going well beyond just building a quality streaming service; the company is now aiming for the big screen in a much bigger way.

Last year, Apple made history with its landmark Oscar win for CODA, becoming the first streaming service to win the coveted Academy Award for Best Picture. Now, the company is setting its sights on becoming a full-fledged movie production house, rather than merely backing fare for its Apple TV+ streaming service.

While it may not come as a big surprise considering the roster of talent that Apple has already lined up, Bloomberg reports that Apple now plans to spend at least $1 billion per year to produce movies that will primarily be released in theatres, with Apple TV+ a secondary consideration.

These aren’t just going to be token theatrical releases, either. In the past, the Academy’s rules have required streaming movies to open in theatres to qualify for Oscars, leading services like Netflix to do the bare minimum to meet those requirements: a seven-day run in a single theatre in L.A. For obvious reasons, the Academy relaxed those rules during the global health pandemic, but there’s a strong push to bring them back now that theatre operations have returned to normal.

Moving to The Big Screen

However, with Apple’s new movie ambitions, these rules won’t really matter. According to Bloomberg’s sources, Apple has already “approached movie studios about partnering to release a few titles in theatres this year.” The intent is to give the big-name pictures it’s still working on wide theatrical exposure, but at this point, Apple still needs partners with the necessary expertise that can handle distributing movies in thousands of cinemas worldwide.

Some of the films on Apple’s list for this year include Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which will feature Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in the starring roles, and the star-studded spy thriller Argylle, directed by Matthew Vaughn who is best known for Stardust, X-Men: First Class, and the Kingsman series.

There are still numerous financial details to work out, and the billion-dollar spend isn’t just about movie production costs. While $200-million+ price tags are typical for high-profile movie projects, there are also marketing and distribution costs to be factored in. As Bloomberg notes, the big movie studios typically spend at least $100 million just to market big theatrical releases. Apple will likely be expected to share in that.

However, some of the distribution deals are already done. For instance, Killers of the Flower Moon originally came from Paramount Pictures; Apple outbid competitors such as Netflix, MGM, and Universal to get it onto Apple TV+, but part of the deal was that Paramount would still distribute the finished product in theatres, released under the Apple banner.

Apple’s Theatrical Ambitions

Apple’s desire for big theatrical releases isn’t new; the company has been aiming to win Oscars since before Apple TV+ launched in 2019. At the time, sources revealed that Apple was planning to produce at least six original Oscar-winning movies per year.

If anything, it’s the COVID-19 pandemic that’s slowed Apple’s ambitions down. All those reports came in the halcyon days of 2019, when there was every indication of brighter days ahead for Apple’s plans. Instead, by early 2020 the theatres had closed, and movie studios were scrambling to find ways to get their films out to as many viewers as possible.

Apple benefited from that in another way, bringing Tom Hanks’ Greyhound to Apple TV+ as a direct-to-streaming release that rivalled a big box office hit in the number of opening weekend viewers and drew in a record number of new subscribers to Apple TV+.

Nevertheless, it’s clear Apple’s plans for the big screen were merely delayed, and now we’re seeing the company’s renewed commitment to making sure its big-budget feature films are seen the way they were intended. As Bloomberg explains, Apple’s strategy will also hopefully bolster theatre chains, which haven’t yet returned to pre-pandemic attendance levels.

However, while Apple surely doesn’t mind helping out, its primary intent is to make a bigger name for itself in Hollywood, so it can attract even more talent. It also hopes to enjoy the halo effect major movie releases will have on attracting more subscribers to Apple TV+ and its other products and services.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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