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In another major theatrical move, Apple Original Films is teaming with Sony to give Ridley Scott’s Napoleon an exclusive worldwide run on the big screen before debuting the movie on Apple TV+. The historical epic opens in cinemas Nov. 22, the eve of the lucrative Thanksgiving corridor.
Directed by Scott from a screenplay by David Scarpa, Napoleon stars Joaquin Phoenix as the infamous French emperor and military leader. The film is from Apple Studios in conjunction with Scott Free Productions.
The news comes just one week after Apple Original Films announced it will partner with Paramount in giving Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon an exclusive theatrical run prior to its streaming launch. The Western crime drama, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone, opens in a limited run on Oct. 6, before expanding nationwide Oct. 20 (the film will make its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May).
Both films will stream globally on Apple TV+ following their exclusive theatrical releases.
Until now, streamers have shied away from a traditional theatrical release, opting instead to make their movies available fairly quickly on their respective platforms. However, many cinemas, including the major chains, won’t play a title unless it has an adequate exclusive window (these days, that can mean 35 to 40 days).
This has posed issues for filmmakers and talent who are used to a major spot on the marquee. And there’s growing evidence that a theatrical berth ups the profile of a picture and provides an important financial revenue stream.
Hence, Apple and Amazon are now breaking ranks and wading into theatrical in a major way. This week, for example, Amazon Studios opens Ben Affleck’s Air exclusively in theaters. (Amazon doesn’t have to partner with a major studio to distribute its original films since it now owns MGM.)
One difference: Killers of the Flower Moon was previously set up at Paramount, so the studio already had co-distribution rights. In the case of Napoleon, Apple selected Sony to partner with.
All of this is good news for theater circuits, which are hungry for event titles. Thanksgiving is one of the busiest times of the year at the multiplex, and Napoleon is a welcome addition to the menu. As the calendar stands now, it opens opposite Disney’s animated tentpole Wish, which will go after families.
Opening the weekend before on Nov. 17 are Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Universal’s animated holiday offering Trolls Band Together. And, at the same time it dated Apple’s Napoleon for Nov. 22, Sony announced it will now open Eli Roth’s horror pic Thanksgiving on Nov. 17 as well (the film is inspired by the fictitious trailer in Grindhouse).
In Monday’s Napoleon announcement, Apple noted that Sony’s “distinct commitment” to theatrical windows drove significant box office returns for such pandemic-era films as Spider-Man: No Way Home, Where the Crawdads Sing and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, among other titles.
Napoleon is described as an original and personal look at Napoleon’s origins and his swift, ruthless climb to emperor, viewed through the prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby.
April 3, 2:30 p.m.: Updated with Thanksgiving release date.
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