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Apple to spend $1 billion annually on movies, aiming for major theatrical releases

Apple TV+ became the first streaming service to win the prestigious Oscars Best Picture award last year, for Sundance acquisition CODA, but its overall film slate has been somewhat underwhelming so far.

Via Bloomberg, that may be set to change as Apple is significantly expanding its original films division to focus on blockbuster titles that will debut widely in theatres first, before arriving on the streaming service. Apple will purportedly spend $1 billion annually on its movie slate.

Up to now, Apple Original Film releases have received small theatrical runs, mostly just enough to qualify for awards eligibility. But Apple has its sights set on releasing films that have major theatrical impact, before those films land on Apple TV+.

Bloomberg says Apple is currently in talks to release films in thousands of theaters at least a month ahead of their streaming date. A large theatrical release will help build buzz for a title, helping to promote the Apple TV+ service in the process.

Apple has also promised theatrical windows for some films to secure top talent, such as the as-yet-untitled upcoming original film starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt. The stars reportedly chose Apple over distributors like Netflix, because Apple pledged theatrical distribution.

The plans sound similar to those of rival Amazon, who announced plans to spend $1 billion per year on theatrical movies.

Bloomberg says Apple is looking to partner with established movie studios to handle the international theatrical distribution, rather than doing it all internally as it lacks the expertise internally. It has not yet finalized agreements such as size of marketing budgets and distribution commission for the partner studio.

One Apple TV+ title that will get significant theatrical distribution through Paramount is the upcoming Martin Scorsese-directed feature ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

This is somewhat separate to the ongoing plans for the Apple Original Films unit though, as the Paramount deal came out of negotiations from a few years ago when Apple bought the production rights for ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ from the studio. Apple has forked out around $200m to pay for the highly-anticipated production, with the film likely premiering at Cannes film festival in May, followed by a wide cinema release for a few months before arriving on Apple TV+ streaming service.

However, Bloomberg says Apple hopes to have multiple films released this year with wide theatrical distribution, in addition to Killers. Other possible candidates include spy thriller ‘Argylle’ and Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’.

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Avatar for Benjamin Mayo Benjamin Mayo

Benjamin develops iOS apps professionally and covers Apple news and rumors for 9to5Mac. Listen to Benjamin, every week, on the Happy Hour podcast. Check out his personal blog. Message Benjamin over email or Twitter.