Apple is in talks to release feature-length films to cinemas before making them available on Apple TV+, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the plans. Discussions have taken place with cinema chains about the plan, with the aim of bringing in big-name directors and producers. Apple hopes in this way to avoid some of the issues that have arisen with Netflix, which usually asks theater owners to release movies it owns or produces at the same time they come out on the streaming service. That approach limits the company’s ability to play its movies in major cinemas, which generally insist that films don’t appear online for about three months after their theatrical debuts. Apple would have no problems letting its content stay for some weeks at cinemas before hitting its streaming service.
Apple’s effort is being led by its co-heads of video programming, Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, who report to the services chief Eddy Cue. Greg Foster, the former head of entertainment at IMAX, has been acting as a consultant with the plan.
Among Apple’s first major theatrical releases is Sofia Coppola’s “On the Rocks,” with Rashida Jones and Bill Murray. Apple is looking to release the film mid next year, perhaps following a premiere at a high-profile event such as the Cannes Film Festival, people familiar with the situation said. Apple has also talked with movie theater representatives about a documentary called “The Elephant Queen,” which it plans to debut on 1 November on its steaming service and also air in theaters so that it is eligible for awards consideration.
Sources said Apple approached JJ Abrams in the hopes for a content deal. Abrams however ended up signing a less lucrative deal with WarnerMedia, partly because Apple didn’t have a movie distribution model.
Apple TV+ will cost USD 4.99 a month, against USD 6.99 for Disney+ and USD 12.99 for Netflix.