If you haven’t noticed yet, the streaming wars are upon us. Netflix has shelled out for Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy. Amazon has locked up Nicole Kidman, Jordan Peele and Barry Jenkins. Apple has several talent deals as well (who needs Siri when you’ve got Oprah!), and now it has signed a multi-year deal with A24, which will produce a slate of films for the tech giant, it was announced Wednesday.
The strategic partnership comes on the heels of recent rumors that Apple was considering buying an indie studio, with A24 (a prime acquisition target) believed to be at the top of their list. I even heard that Amazon made an offer to buy A24 earlier this year, but A24’s founders turned it down. Those rumors were both roundly denied, and while MGM and Lionsgate were also said to be potential acquisition targets for Apple, it seems the tech giant ultimately decided to partner with A24 rather than acquire the studio and its budding library. Under the terms of this non-exclusive arrangement, A24 is able to maintain its independence, even if the end result is ultimately the same — the company will be making movies for Apple.
Of course, it’s unclear what that even means these days. Will these films be released as “iTunes exclusives?” Will they be released on some kind of other Apple streaming platform, or will they be released in theaters like most Amazon Studios movies and select Netflix titles? Right now, A24 movies appear on the Amazon Prime streaming service following their theatrical release, and some A24 movies debut on DirecTV 30 days before they hit theaters. Those deals aren’t expected to go away, as both are important to the company’s bottom line.
While Apple has been ramping up its push into Hollywood, the company hasn’t made a lot of film deals. That said, Apple has already committed to spending $1 billion on its initial TV slate, which includes a Reese Witherspoon–Jennifer Aniston–Steve Carell show, a Chris Evans drama, and the anthology series Amazing Stories from executive producer Steven Spielberg. Former Sony Pictures Television presidents Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht currently lead Apple’s originals division, though the company has yet to hire an experienced film executive. With Netflix and Amazon snapping up talent left and right with the lure of major paydays, and Disney and WarnerMedia launching streaming services next year, Apple knows it needs to move fast, or else it risks being left behind. The current stockpiling of talent among streamers may explain today’s A24 deal.
Of course, A24 is more than just a movie distributor — it has become a brand unto itself, like Miramax in the ’90s. The company took home its first Best Picture Oscar a couple years ago with Moonlight, it’s coming off its biggest box office hit yet in Hereditary, and it has also released awards contenders like Room, Lady Bird, Eighth Grade, Ex Machina and The Disaster Artist. The deal makes as much sense for A24 as it does Apple, which is eager to get into business with the kinds of young filmmakers and edgy storytellers that A24 could bring to the table, given its wealth of relationships. A24 also makes the kinds of films that would appeal to iTunes subscribers and other young cord cutters, and it’s possible that if A24 has access to Apple’s war chest, the company could compete with major studios for top-tier packages led by A-list talent.
Only time will tell who benefits most from this new deal — Apple, A24, or us movie fans. Stay tuned…