Apple TV+ Movies Struggling to Dominate Theaters Still Considered “Beneficial”

'Killers of the Flower Moon'

Apple TV+ seems to be resorting to some accounting magic after its last run of $700 million films brought in only $466 million in revenue, but the company still counts two of them as profitable.

Streaming services are trying to fight a two-front war with prestige television and theatrical performances. However, reasons ranging from COVID to the slow decline of the theater industry make it difficult to compete with anything without a Minion or superhero.

Apple's box office performance has been middling so far, but a new report from Variety suggests Apple isn't worried. According to an anonymous studio source, Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon are considered profitable, at least due to “additional revenue streams.”

Basic mathematics does not suggest this. The three latest Apple films — Killers of the Flower Moon, Napoleon and Argyle earned $466 million worldwide. The trio cost approximately $700 million to create.

The source did not comment on Argyll's profitability, but it may be too soon as it will only be available for home rentals now. The other two could become profitable due to customers renting them before release, but this is unlikely.

All anyone can do is speculate, but it appears that Apple could use Apple TV+ subscription revenue and other revenues to keep projects technically “profitable” — at least on paper. Of the three, Argyle seems to be faring the worst with a development cost of $200 million and box office receipts of $88 million.

Of course, releasing a film in theaters is not only about cost recovery. It's about the impact of awards season and the Holy Grail of the Best Picture Oscar.

The movie, produced by Apple TV+, released in theaters, and then won an Oscar, is pure marketing for the subscription service. After Apple won Best Picture with CODA, it became a promotional tentpole.

Whatever accounting tricks Apple tries to call any of these films profitable, the investment may pay off. Apple has 13 Oscar nominations, between Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon. We will find out whether the company's investments will pay off at the award ceremony on March 10.

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