One often-overlooked subplot of the just-concluded Awards season was the sudden ubiquity of Amazon Studios. Backed by the online retail giant, Amazon Studios released a slate in 2016 that rivaled that of some major, established Hollywood studios for acclaim, consisting of Manchester by the Sea, Cafe Society, Love & Friendship, The Handmaiden, Paterson, The Neon Demon and the documentary Gleason. Manchester By the Seas was the only one that gained significant Oscar attention, with six nominations, but Amazon nevertheless assembled quite an impressive list of films for a company that was barely in the movie business as recently as a couple of years ago.
Amazon’s rise — cemented with CEO Jeff Bezos’ attendance at the Oscars and a monologue shoutout from Jimmy Kimmel -- is part of a gradual re-ordering of motion picture distribution, especially dealing with the rise of streaming. More recently, another tech giant, Apple, has reportedly begun dipping its toes into the waters of producing original content -- and it may not be long before Apple takes an Oscar night bow of its own.
Gene Munster, founder of the venture capital firm Loup Ventures, a man who spent decades as a financial analyst covering Apple, predicted in a note this week that Apple will win an Oscar in the next five years. In the research note, Munster predicted that the five-year time frame represents “how long it will take for Apple to scale its original content spend from less than $200m today to $5-7 [billion.] He added that he believes “Apple is serious about content.”
Apple first made noises about producing original content back in the fall of 2015, after years of being adjacent to the entertainment industry (Apple Music, iTunes) in various ways without ever explicitly being part of it. The computer and consumer electronics giant will debut its first two original series, Planet of the Apps and the James Corden spinoff Carpool Karaoke, this spring, with more to come later.
It’s not hard to guess why Apple could become a force in content before long. They’re an incredibly large company with an historical amount of cash on hand which they’re able to throw at top talent. They’re starting small with a handful of TV series, but that’s how Netflix did it, and how Amazon did it as well. Both went, in a pretty short amount of time, from no presence at all to a full slate of Oscar contenders.
It is still unknown what form Apple’s content plans will ultimately take, or even that the films it makes will be eligible for Oscar consideration. There’s still skepticism from some in the Academy about streaming service-produced films, as Netflix releases have rarely been nominated outside of the documentary categories, and even Amazon's slate only yielded many noms for Manchester. As for Gene Munster, he’s been wrong before -- most notably, for the many years in which he predicted that Apple would produce a TV.
Screen Rant will have more information about Apple’s content plans as they develop.
Source: Variety, Loup Ventures