Apple is enlisting Oscar-winning indie studio A24 to produce a slate of films for the tech behemoth. The partnership comes as Apple is delving more deeply into making its own shows and movies, having previously signed deals with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey.
Apple did not provide many specifics about the deal with A24 beyond saying it was a “multiyear agreement” and involved multiple films. It’s unclear if the movies the studio makes will be released in theaters or if they will premiere on some kind of digital platform. Financial terms of the pact were not disclosed.
It does enable Apple to partner with one of the hottest brands in the arthouse space. Launched in 2012, A24 has differentiated itself by backing edgy, auteur-driven projects. It nabbed a best picture Oscar for “Moonlight,” and also scored with the likes of “Room,” “The Witch,” and “Ex Machina.” Not all of these movies make money, however. Other A24 releases such as “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” and “20th Century Women” are more admired than seen.
A24 currently has a deal with DirecTV to jointly acquire films for U.S. distribution, with DirecTV getting rights to offer the films on-demand 30 days prior to theatrical release. It also has an output deal with Amazon, through which its films appear on the company’s Prime streaming service after they appear in cinemas. Those deals remain in effect. The Apple and A24 deal is not exclusive, nor is it a first look arrangement, so the studio will continue to produce and release other movies independently. At one point, there were rumors that Apple was going to acquire A24 or another studio, but it appears that it is not taking that route.
The deal is one of Apple’s first big film pacts. The company has been more active in the television space, and has budgeted approximately $1 billion to date on their initial series development slate. Apple has previously announced that it will make a morning show drama with Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston an adaptation of the book “Defending Jacob” starring and executive produced by Chris Evans, and a revival of the Spielberg-produced “Amazing Stories” anthology franchise. On the film front, it has acquired a few films, including the documentary “The Elephant Queen” and the animated film “Wolfwalkers.”
Apple has tapped former Sony Pictures Television presidents Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht to lead the originals division. The company has yet to make a major hire in the film space. It also has not made it clear how the programming it makes will be distributed — if it will bow on iTunes or on some different type of service.
The world of streaming is becoming crowded. Netflix and Amazon have made big investments in original content, and Disney and WarnerMedia are launching streaming services in 2019. The competition is creating something of a land grab mentality when it comes to locking up top talent.