Apple wants to make Oscar-worthy movies to beef up streaming service
Apple has Oscar envy.
Since announcing plans to compete with Netflix in March, Apple has been busy with a new project: financing six small-budget movies a year with an eye toward stories that could win Academy Awards, sources have told The Post.
Hollywood sources say the tech giant has been approaching “elevated” directors and other film talent in recent months to talk about bankrolling projects with Oscar-winning potential.
Apple is looking to spend $5 million to $30 million per project, sources said, adding that the company is being driven by Netflix’s recent spate of Oscar nominations and win for Best Foreign Film with “Roma” — legitimizing Netflix head Reed Hastings’ standing in Hollywood.
“They are taking meetings and hiring,” one agency source said of Apple, adding that the meetings are being generated by the company’s original feature films unit, headed by Matt Dentler, formerly of iTunes Movies.
The source described Apple’s new film ambitions as “Focus Features-esque award contenders,” referring to critically acclaimed movies like “BlacKkKlansman,” “Boy Erased” and “Dallas Buyers Club.”
The source said Apple’s search for six small-budget films is not related to its multiyear agreement, signed in November, to make movies with A24, the studio behind 2017 Academy Award-winning film “Moonlight.” That deal has already led to plans for a film directed by Sofia Coppola and starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones.
The Oscar push comes as Apple scrambles to find the content it needs to sell Apple+, a video-streaming service it unveiled in March to compete with the likes of Netflix, Disney and Amazon.
The service, which is slated to launch later this year for an unknown price, will offer shows centering on big names like Reese Witherspoon, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Damien Chazelle, the director of “La La Land.”
But unlike Disney, which also plans to launch a new streaming service this year, Apple lacks a library of content that consumers can riffle through when they are done watching the new stuff — and has been internally debating whether to acquire one, a well-placed source said.
“They are literally anxious and clueless about what they really want to do,” the source said. “Half the culture hates them making content, and the other half wants to meet stars.”
The dillydallying — combined with Apple’s piddling spending plans — has Apple analysts scratching their heads.
“They are playing from behind the eight ball,” said Dan Ives, an analyst from Wedbush Securities.
“It’s a content arms race,” according to Ives, who said he expects Apple will ultimately stop the hand-wringing and just buy a library from Sony Pictures, Lionsgate, MGM or A24.
“They have $250 billion of dry powder, and they generate $60 billion a year in free cash flow. I think it is a new day,” Ives said.
As reported by The Post in March, Apple’s foray into Hollywood has not been without problems, including agents and producers griping about “intrusive” executives, including CEO Tim Cook, who has been seen on set for shows and has been known for “giving notes and getting involved.”
One of Cook’s favorite notes to the staffers producing shows for the tech giant was “Don’t be so mean!” according to a source.
This story originally appeared in the New York Post.