Apple, Skydance Media Sign Multi-Year Live Action Film Deal

The Tomorrow War
Courtesy of Amazon

Skydance Media, the maker of “The Tomorrow War” and “Mission: Impossible,” will develop and produce a slate of live action films as part of a new multi-year pact with Apple Original Films.

The move between the production company and the tech giant has been rumored for months, with buzz building after Apple and Skydance brokered a similar deal for animated films and series. The news is yet another signal of the shift in power in the entertainment landscape from traditional media companies to streaming giants.

Skydance had long been most closely associated with one of those legacy companies in Paramount Pictures. They last signed a four-year theatrical distribution deal with the ViacomCBS-owned studio in 2017, which recently expired. Skydance head David Ellison and former Paramount leader Jim Gianopulos were increasingly at odds over releasing films in a pandemic-struck market, insiders familiar with the companies said.

After successfully unloading projects like “The Tomorrow War” to Amazon Prime Video — a blockbuster for that service — to considerable profit margins, the final straw for Skydance and Paramount came with the July 2021 release of the G.I. Joe story “Snake Eyes.” Skydance was keen to sell it to a streaming player, insiders said, but Gianopulos insisted the film roll out in theaters as the Delta variant of COVID-19 continued to interfere with public life. That project, which reportedly cost close to $90 million, earned $28 million at the domestic box office and a fatal $11 million in international territories. [Update: Sources told Variety that Paramount had a theatrical obligation to “Snake Eyes” rights holder Hasbro, which forced the issue].

Ironically, insiders noted, Skydance and Paramount’s bond has stabilized following a streaming-first reorganization at the legacy studio last September. Gianopulos was abruptly ousted by ViacomCBS leader Shari Redstone, and replaced by executive Brian Robbins. Skydance will continue to work on its ongoing franchises with Paramount, which include “Mission: Impossible,” “Transformers” and “Star Trek.” The company produced the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” for the studio, along with the next two installments in the “Mission: Impossible” series. Skydance also has projects with other companies such as its planned sequel to “The Tomorrow War” and Netflix’s upcoming Ryan Reynolds film “The Adam Project.”

Ellison consolidating the majority of his business at Apple is a bit fated. The son of Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison, David Ellison has spoken over the years of the lasting impact of a childhood spent roaming the Apple campus and watching the late Steve Jobs build out the tech monolith.

Apple and Skydance have already announced features including “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” directed by Peter Farrelly and starring Zac Efron and Russell Crowe, and “Ghosted,” directed by Dexter Fletcher and starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas. For Apple TV Plus, Skydance produces David S. Goyer’s “Foundation” and the upcoming “The Big Door Prize” from David West Read.

The deal with Skydance should bolster Apple’s arsenal of content. The company recently released Oscar contenders “CODA” and “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. Its upcoming releases include “Emancipation,” from director Antoine Fuqua and Will Smith and Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro.