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Apple wants its upcoming original movies to get major theatrical debut before TV+ users stream them

Apple hopes showing its films in theaters will lure big-name directors and producers to its projects, according to a Wall Street Journal report

Customers at the cinema
Apple’s first theatrical release is a Sofia Coppola film called On the Rocks, which stars Rashida Jones and is expected to debut in mid-2020

Apple Inc (NASDAQ:AAPL) has reportedly decided to take a different tack than its competitors when it comes to producing content for its streaming service: Send its movies to theaters first, then bring them to Apple TV+.

According to a Wall Street Journal report citing people familiar with the plan, Apple has been talking with movie theater chains and an entertainment executive about establishing its theatrical release blueprint. 

The goal, say the people familiar with the company, is to draw in heavy-hitting Hollywood directors and producers who normally might stay away from streaming services like Netflix.

Netflix’s model has been to release its movies theatrically and on its streaming platform simultaneously, the WSJ report said, which clashes with the cinema house ethos. Major movie theater chains typically demand that films not appear on streaming services until at least three months after they first hit the big screen.

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The policy has led to feast or famine for Netflix. This year, its film Roma won three Academy Awards including Best Director without ever making a theatrical debut. On the other hand, negotiations between Netflix and theater companies about showing an upcoming Martin Scorses film The Irishman collapsed over disagreements about a window of exclusivity, according to The Atlantic.

Apple’s first theatrical release is a Sofia Coppola film called On the Rocks, according to the WSJ report, which stars Rashida Jones and is expected to debut in mid-2020, possibly opening at a high-profile film festival. 

Apple, though, still has some catching up to do with its content budget. The company is spending $2 billion on original content this year, a big investment but still well short of Netflix’s reported $10 billion content budget, according to Reuters

The prestige of big-name directors and high-dollar films is something Apple hopes will tip the scales its way, as is Apple TV+’s price point — just $4.99 per month compared to Netflix’s Standard Plan price of $12.99 per month.

Contact Andrew Kessel at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kessel

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