Apple Signs a Deal With A24 to Produce Indie Feature Films

Apple inked a multi-year partnership with studio A24 to make independent features, the first time that it expanded its ambitions to make content beyond TV programming. Last year, Apple announced it had committed $1 billion to create scripted shows, moving into a field dominated by Amazon and Netflix. Prior to the deal, Apple had only signed deals for two films, the documentary “The Elephant Queen” and family-friendly animated film “Wolfwalkers.” A24 is known for its Oscar-winning feature “Moonlight.”

The Wall Street Journal reports that, since A24 was founded in 2012, its “films are often more successful in provoking cultural conversation than profiting heavily from ticket sales, a signal the Apple deal is more about brand cache [sic] than box-office windfalls.” “Moonlight,” for example, which won Oscars for best picture, best adapted screenplay and best supporting actors, was “among the lowest-grossing movies ever to win best picture.”

Apple is mum, however, on whether any of the joint projects will be released theatrically. Netflix has resisted wide theatrical releases of its films, only showing features in physical movie theaters to qualify for an Academy Award nomination. Amazon, however, has released its movies in multiple markets before streaming them “on its service several weeks later.”

Apple’s “push into original content” takes place across a backdrop of slowing smartphone sales. Its strategy is to “accelerate a growing services business that includes app store sales, mobile payments and a music-streaming subscription offering,” as well as content creation. To lead its efforts in video, Apple lured executives Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg from Sony Pictures Television, where they oversaw “Breaking Bad” and “The Crown.”

Originally Apple planned to launch its first shows late this year, but postponed it until March, said sources. The shows Apple produces are aimed to “support a video service on its TV app that could be bundled with subscriptions such as iCloud storage or future device sales,” they added.

A24 has had success in an environment in which the major studios put their energies into franchise blockbusters. A24’s adult-oriented fare has run the gamut from its early film “Spring Breakers,” starring former Disney Channel stars as “debauched college students” to this year’s horror film “Hereditary,” its widest release that made $44 million in the U.S. and Canada.