Apple will reportedly release its films in theaters weeks before they come to Apple TV Plus
People might be able to trek out to theaters to see some of Apple’s biggest movies before they hit Apple TV Plus.
Apple is reportedly going to pursue a traditional theatrical release plan, according to The Wall Street Journal, which could go beyond what Netflix offers for some of its biggest movies. That means some films would stay in theaters for a 12-week period before they’re available to stream. Apple plans to test the theatrical release schedule with its upcoming movie from Sofia Coppola On the Rocks, according to the Journal. The company wants to release it around mid-2020, possibly following a premiere at Cannes, the report adds. On the Rocks is the first film to come from Apple’s partnership with critically adored studio A24.
A drama from Sofia Coppola about the relationship between a daughter and father (played by Rashida Jones and Bill Murray) isn’t exactly an Avengers movie; it’s not going to break $1 billion at the box office. It does allow Apple the opportunity to vie for an Oscar, though. Amazon Studios started pursuing similar theatrical releases for some of its award contenders in 2015. Movies like Manchester by the Sea, which saw lead actor Casey Affleck take home the Oscar for Actor in a Leading Role in 2017, received a lengthier, three-month release in theaters than other movies. Amazon will sometimes release a film for two weeks in theaters.
The decision to give movies proper theatrical releases also comes at a time when Netflix is going head-to-head with major theater distributors like AMC and Regal. Netflix has never given a movie a 12-week release, and therefore a Netflix movie has never played a major national theater chain. Netflix’s priority has always been to its subscribers and serving their needs at home. The company has released films in theaters for a limited release, including Oscar-winning Roma, which was in theaters for 21 days. Netflix’s newest film, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will also receive a 21-day release in theaters, but that’s not without internal strife and controversy. Scorsese wanted a full national release, according to a report from The New York Times, but Netflix, AMC, and Regal wouldn’t budge.
The dichotomy between Netflix’s plans and Apple’s could also give Apple an upper hand when it comes to courting talent. Netflix can’t promise big directors like Scorsese that their movies will play at AMC, and therefore in major theaters across the country. If Apple does play the theatrical release long game, the company can offer something Netflix can’t.
Still, Apple is just getting into original content, and it’s going to take time to build some trust. The company reportedly offered Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker director J.J. Abrams $500 million to make content exclusively for Apple with his company Bad Robot. Abrams walked away from the deal and signed an overall contract with WarnerMedia that is reportedly worth $250 million, under the condition that he could work with other studios and networks, including Apple and Disney.
Apple doesn’t appear to be chasing after Disney’s box office dominance, but instead focusing on a prestige play. Its TV originals, including The Morning Show and For All Mankind, are examples of series that could make Emmy plays for traditional networks. Its films, especially those produced by A24, are likely to be major Oscar contenders for the company, too. Get used to seeing Apple CEO Tim Cook sitting at a table at the Oscars — maybe even across the aisle from other tech pals like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.