Apple’s ‘Next Big Thing’ May Be Making Feature-Length Films

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Apple’s original video strategy has, thus far, focused on TV content. But a new report suggests that the company may be considering creating feature-length films.

The Cupertino tech giant is said to be nearing a deal to the rights of a full-length animated movie. Specifically, Apple is talking with Oscar-nominated Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.

Cartoon Saloon’s animated film isn’t currently in production and is likely “more than a year” from a release. But Apple is negotiations to buy the distribution rights for the U.S. and other regions, Bloomberg reported.

Like with its other original video content, it’s not clear how Apple will sell or market the film. But Bloomberg’s sources said that a release in theaters is on the table — since it’s necessary to qualify for an Academy Award.

Apple has already amassed an impressive slate of original TV content, ranging from documentaries to sci-fi series. Some notable examples include a comedy starring Kristen Wiig, a drama created by “La La Land’s” Damien Chazelle, and a morning show drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon.

But the Cartoon Saloon deal hints that Apple may be considering original content beyond TV shows. Producing original feature films would put the company in more direct competition to rivals like Netflix, Amazon and Google’s YouTube, all of which currently dominate the online streaming market.

Original content is a relatively new venture for the Cupertino firm, but Apple seems to be going all-in on the strategy. It’s hired several TV industry veterans and has opened an office in Hollywood. Previously, it was reported that Apple’s in-house studio has a budget of nearly $1 billion a year for its content.

While Apple faces an uphill battle in the market, its large stockpiles of cash and the massive appeal of its device have attracted a slew of entertainment industry attention. Last year, Apple’s Hollywood office was said to be “inundated” with spec scripts.

The company has yet to release any of the original TV offerings that it’s accumulated in the last year. Again, it’s not clear what channels Apple will use to distribute it — but its TV app is a likely choice.

The first of the original Apple shows could debut in 2019, Bloomberg previously reported in October.

Cartoon Saloon, based in Kilkenny, Ireland, is known for its Academy Award-Nominated animated films, like “Secret of Kells,” “The Breadwinner,” and “Song of the Sea.” The studio also produces short films and TV shows — Cartoon Saloon’s “Puffin Rock” is an Emmy-nominated preschool series available on Netflix in more than 25 languages.

Bloomberg notes that the deal has yet to be finalized and could still fall apart. But the deal cements Apple’s ambitions in the original content market.

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