Apple's new film strategy debuts with 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Until now, Apple's films were streaming-first. But "Killers of the Flower Moon" won't reach its streaming service, Apple TV+, for at least 45 days. It is Apple's clearest embrace of movie theaters…

Apple's new film strategy debuts with 'Killers of the Flower Moon'


Martin Scorsese (bottom), director and cowriter of "Killers of the Flower Moon", works the press at the Los Angeles premier of the film.

The Box Office Results for

Martin Scorsese

Reporters and industry insiders will reveal and analyze's latest film, "Killers of the Flower Moon," on Sunday. Was the film a success? Was it a failure? Leonardo DiCaprio was unable to promote the movie because of the strike by actors. Did this ultimately lead to fewer people going to see the film?

It is not unusual for major films to have a weekend-long opening, but this will be the first time for

Apple Studios

The $200 million film was produced and financed by the same company. The 3 1/2-hour R-rated movie will be released in over 3,600 theaters by Paramount Pictures.

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Apple's movies were streamed first until now. "Killers of the Flower Moon", however, will not be available on Apple's streaming service.


TV+ for at least 45 consecutive days. Apple has embraced movie theaters in the most obvious way since Apple TV+ was launched four years ago. This is the first of Apple's three major theatrical releases scheduled over the next six month.

During Thanksgiving weekend,

Sony Pictures

Apple will release Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon,” starring Joaquin Phoenix. Apple and Universal Pictures will release "Argyle", a spy caper, in cinemas across the country on February 28.

Bradley Thomas, the producer of "Killers of the Flower Moon", called Apple's partnership "comforting" because traditional studios are experienced in theatrical releases. He said that Apple was "dipping its toe in the water". "They won't be able to take on the entire thing by themselves."

Kevin Walsh, the producer who started developing "Napoleon," with Apple, in 2020, has seen its approach to theatrical releases evolve. He said the turning point came when the top Apple TV+ executives Jamie Erlicht, and Zack Van Amberg, saw the success of Paramount's "Top Gun," a movie that brought in $1.5 Billion at the global box-office last year. Walsh told an interview that Apple was trying to replicate the success of "Top Gun," which brought in $1.5 billion at the global box office last year. Walsh was referring to Apple's upcoming Brad Pitt film, "Napoleon" and "Formula 1". "I believe there's money to be had, of course, in theaters for spectacle movies. They also act as a giant billboard for the

Apple TV

"Services are only successful if they're implemented well and have a good track record."

Apple's embrace of movie theatres is welcome for the movie theater industry, which has been disrupted by streaming companies who make films primarily for their services at home. Netflix disrupted long-held traditions of theatrical releases by placing films in limited theaters for limited times -- typically, the minimum needed to satisfy filmmakers and qualify as



Amazon Studios has recently changed its strategy, allowing commercial films such as Ben Affleck’s “Air” to be shown in theaters for a significant amount of time before they are released on streaming services. Apple's willingness to work with other companies to promote its films has surprised many, given its reputation for secrecy, its deep pockets and its desire to control all aspects of its ecosystem. This leaves Apple open to the vagaries and whims of the theater market. To be a hit, "Killers" must do big business because of its high price. Analysts predict that the film will bring in anywhere between $18 million and $30 million during its first weekend. Even Scorsese's films, which are known for their staying power and grossing close to five-times what they did on the opening weekend, would have a difficult start. Commercial hurdles could be the film's length and the dark subject matter (the plot revolves around Native American murders). Shawn Robbins is an independent box-office analyst who believes the film's opening will be in the $30 million range. The film has its challenges, given the long runtime and DiCaprio’s absence from press. He added that "strong reviews, DiCaprio’s box office history - especially with Scorsese - provide ample goodwill for the audiences" and work to the film's advantage. The market hasn't seen a film aimed at adults in a long time. "Oppenheimer," a film with a similar running time and a subject that was equally serious, beat the odds and made $942 million in worldwide earnings this year. Apple has not said much about this new strategy. However, theater owners have been ecstatic. Apple is "a large company with the capability to do high-quality work and I believe that their recognition that movies belong in theatres is a powerful signal," Michael O'Leary said in an exclusive interview. Prioritizing theatrical releases will allow them to attract major filmmakers, and create more dynamic and entertaining content in the future. Scorsese, along with his co-writer Eric Roth, started adapting David Grann’s nonfiction work "Killers of the Flower Moon", in 2017. Paramount had agreed to finance and release the film. However, when production costs skyrocketed, Apple was brought on board to fund the project in 2020. Thomas, the man who bought the rights to "Killers", with his partner Dan Friedkin, initially wanted it. Apple was the only company that ensured a theatrical release, which was a necessity for Scorsese whose Netflix film "The Irishman", had a short run. Apple agreed to reimburse Paramount for the development costs of the film and a portion Scorsese’s deal. Two people familiar with the deal spoke anonymously because details of the deal were not made public. Apple is in charge of the publicity and marketing material, while Paramount controls theater bookings. Apple struck similar deals, but less expensive ones, with Sony Pictures and Universal Pictures, sharing marketing costs and handling distribution for each film. Sony and Universal shared the marketing costs and handled distribution with Apple. Apple has yet to commit to a single partner, even though all three studios want to form long-term relationships with the company. Tim Bajarin is the CEO of Creative Strategy in Silicon Valley, a high tech research firm. He said, "I would be surprised if Apple took a single studio approach to distribution." Apple is willing to collaborate, and has shown they can do so with multiple studios. I think they will use that track in the future. "They are very calculating."