At yesterday’s Apple March event, before he showed off the tech giant’s array of new products and upgrades, Tim Cook offered up a glimpse of Apple TV Plus’s movie slate for 2022. And it’s finally looking strong enough to take on the streaming top dogs.
As well as a celebration of Apple’s movie achievements thus far, in particular the multiple Oscar nods for The Tragedy of Macbeth and the Best Picture nod for Coda, it also previewed what’s to come for the rest of this year, and there’s a lot to digest. It also suggests that we’re looking at a shift in focus for Apple.
Thus far, Apple TV Plus, especially in its movies, has bet on established filmmakers and given them space and budget to be creative in a way that the major studios just can’t afford to anymore. Sofia Coppola offered up the low-key drama On The Rocks, the Russo brothers, fresh from making Marvel five billion dollars across two Avengers movie, made Cherry, a tough drama where Tom Holland’s titular character returns from war and descends into a life of crime, and Joel Coen, away from his brother Ethan for the first time, was given the budget to bring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand together for a new take on Macbeth done entirely in black and white. We all could have predicted it would do well during awards season, we’d also have predicted a box office return that wouldn’t set anyone’s pulses racing.
The strategy seemed to be clear, hire critical darlings and let them do what they want, with reputation more important than subscriber numbers. Netflix, with its sheer volume of new originals each and every week, and Disney Plus with their vast back catalogue and huge franchises, seem a million miles away from Apple. But with the pandemic coming to an end and the cost of living crisis biting, people are being choosier about which streaming services they invest in, and it could be here that Apple spies an opportunity. We can do interesting and critical acclaim, now let’s go for the jugular, blockbusters, big-names and real family films.
Netflix is no longer ‘forget about it money’, with prices up to $19.99 a month in the US and £13.99 in the UK, while Disney Plus will set you back $80 and £80 a year respectively. The latter is trying to drive that price down with an ad-supported model to arrive in the coming months, but both prices have reached a point where it’s a decision to be taken rather than the price of a sandwich and a cup of coffee. Apple, by contrast, is still $4.99 a month and £4.99 in the UK.
We know why prices are going up. The pressure to pump out more content is increasing all the time and ultimately subscribers end up paying the price. But with so much of Apple’s income coming from elsewhere, they aren’t under the same pressure and this new slate is a sign that they’re eyeing the sort of customers who’d previously have been with Netflix and Disney Plus.
The best example of a shift in strategy is Argylle, which we got a first look at yesterday. Apple paid $200 million to secure the rights to it and you can see its stars Henry Cavill and Dua Lipa, who is making her first real acting bow, in action below, with Cavill having gone full method with his haircut…
Argylle is a proper blockbuster. It has a very starry cast with Sam Rockwell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O'Hara, John Cena, Samuel L. Jackson, Ariana DeBose and Rob Delaney all involved, and a creative team that know how to deliver big-screen entertainment with Matthew Vaughn directing and a script from Wonder Woman writer Jason Fuchs. It’s a long way from Shakespeare in monochrome.
There’s also Spirited where Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrell team up for a new musical re-telling of a Christmas carol. Two big family movie stars uniting for a festive sing-a-long, again, it’s a different audience in mind. The same could be said for Luck, an animated adventure that looks a lot like the sort of thing Pixar offers up.
And, taking a trick directly from Netflix, they’ve also bet big on Martin Scorsese for a stylish drama that other studios had baulked at. Killers of the Flower Moon, which sees Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro re-team for a bloody 1920s hunt for a serial killer, who is systematically murdering members of the Osage tribe in rural Oklahoma.
Now, compared to Netflix, which is debuting a new movie every week in 2022, Apple’s slate is miniscule. But, with its costs kept low and a collection of starry projects, the kind that turn the heads of families who might see one film every three months, it is a statement of intent.
Make sure you catch up with our Apple March Event round up to ensure you don't miss any news from the big event.
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Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…