Report: Apple Plans Theatrical Releases for Movies Ahead of Streaming

Tim Cook CEO of Apple laughing
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Apple is reportedly planning traditional theatrical releases for some of its feature films ahead of streaming — a move that is likely to endear the technology giant to cinema chains as well as prestige-conscious Hollywood talent.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Apple has been reaching out to theater chains and has consulted with an entertainment executive on the company’s plans to keep its movies in cinemas for weeks before making them available on the Apple TV+ streaming platform, which is scheduled to launch in November.

The Journal said that Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks, which reunites the director with Bill Murray, will be among Apple’s first major theatrical releases, set for mid-2020. The newspaper cited anonymous people “familiar with the plans.”

Apple’s decision is part of a larger series of shifts in the streaming entertainment world as companies try to balance audience interest with awards promotion.

Netflix broke with its own tradition last year when it put Roma in select theaters a few weeks prior to its streaming debut. The movie won three Academy Awards. The streaming giant is doing the same this year with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

But most major cinema chains still won’t show Netflix movies, demanding a longer theatrical window of 90 days prior to streaming.

Amazon Studios has given its movies traditional theatrical releases prior to making them available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. But now the e-commerce giant is recalibrating its strategy in the wake of box-office disappointments like Late Night and Life Itself.

Amazon is opening its political drama The Report in select cinemas November 15 followed by a streaming debut just two weeks later.

Apple is investing heavily in its entertainment business and is expected to spend $6 billion getting Apple TV+ off the ground.

The new streaming service is one of a growing number of competitors to Netflix. Major Hollywood studios including Disney, NBCUniversal and Warner Bros. are also launching their own consumer streaming services.

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