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Top Gun: Maverick director races Apple-backed Formula One film to theaters

Top Gun: Maverick // Illustration by Kate Walker

Top Gun: Maverick director races Apple-backed Formula One film to theaters


The Future.  Joseph Kosinski, director of the hit Top Gun: Maverick, inked a deal with Apple to bring his high-flying film style to the world of Formula One. The deal breaks new ground in the world of distribution — it’s getting a blockbuster theatrical rollout followed by a debut on streaming. And the project’s lead creatives are getting paid for every step along the way. If the blueprint proves successful, streamers may experiment with offering a higher-priced tier that gives subscribers access to their films on the big (and small) screen.

Best of both worlds
THR reports that Joseph Kosinki’s next film will compete for eyeballs on the big screen and then the small screen… and get paid for pit stops along the way.

  • The film: Currently untitled, the movie will feature key players from the Top Gun team (director Joseph Kosinski, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and co-writer Ehren Kruger), along with Brad Pitt and his Plan B banner as well as seven-time racing champion Lewis Hamilton.
  • The rollout: Apple will release the film worldwide in theaters for an exclusive run of at least 30 days (and as high as 60) before going on AppleTV+. Apple will look for a theatrical-distribution partner.
  • The deal: The creative team will get paid in three different ways: upfront fees, backend buyout deals, and a theatrical backend (which an insider pegs will be a 50-50 split between Apple and the key players).

While a backend buyout deal is commonplace in streaming and a theatrical backend is normal for big-screen releases (not that many people see that money anyway), this may be the first case of a creative team getting both for the same film. And it’s a rich deal: Kosinski, Bruckheimer, and Pitt will all possibly make tens of millions of dollars.

Theaters and streamers, sitting in a tree…
This isn’t the first time Apple has put movies in theaters — Wolfwakers and The Tragedy of Macbeth were released in a small number of theaters to help pump up their awards prospects. But their F1 project is different — it’s a bonafide blockbuster play and, succinctly put by Bory Kit at THR, “a model for future deals that acknowledge that both theatrical and streaming are here to stay for the duration.”

Apple’s mega-deal is further evidence that something’s in the water in Hollywood — a realization that streamers need theatrical to woo top talent, boost revenue, and build buzz for a movie before it arrives on a service. Netflix signaled as much when reports surfaced that it’s toying with releasing big films, like the upcoming sequel to Knives Out, exclusively in theaters for 45 days.

And there’s evidence to back all this up. Warner Bros.’ The Batman racked up $750 million worldwide before landing on HBO Max… where it proceeded to break viewership records

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