Apple TV+ isn't content with being one of the best streaming services. It looks like it wants to be in the cinema business too. This autumn, the much-anticipated Martin Scorcese movie Killers of the Flower Moon will make its debut not on Apple's streaming service, but in cinemas.
Apple isn't the first streamer to do this; Netflix did it earlier this year with Luther: The Fallen Sun – a move that may have backfired as the reviews were pretty patchy – and previously did it with another Scorsese film, The Irishman, which didn't do brilliant box office. So Apple clearly isn't doing this for the money.
For Apple, it's not about the cash. It's about the clout
As the Hollywood Reporter explains, putting movies in cinemas isn't really about the money – or at least, it isn't in the short term. It's about being taken more seriously by Hollywood's movie movers and shakers, and you don't get their attention with streaming-only releases. Apple has reportedly put aside $1 billion a year to put movies into cinemas as a way to market its streaming service to filmmakers.
As for the film itself, it sounds very Scorsese – and I mean that as a compliment. It reunites the legendary director with Leonardo Di Caprio for the sixth time, and of course Robert De Niro's in it too. It illuminates a brutal, sickening conspiracy and if it's anything like the source material, the 2017 non-fiction bestseller by David Grann, it's going to be quite something. Reviewing the book in Rolling Stone, Sean Woods said that it "chronicles a tale of murder, betrayal, heroism and a nation's struggle to leave its frontier culture behind and enter the modern world" and was "filled with almost mythic characters from our past – stoic Texas Rangers, corrupt robber barons, private detectives, and murderous desperadoes".
Don't expect it to be an easy watch. The story focuses on a particularly bleak and brutal episode in American history, a four-year period in the early 1920s when dozens, and possibly hundreds, of Osage Native Americans were murdered because of the valuable oil deposits that sat beneath the land they owned.
The newly formed FBI was given the job of investigating the murders and bringing the murderers to justice. That proved a tough job: cattleman William Hale, who was eventually convicted of just one killing but was suspected of many more along with his nephews, used bribery and threats of violence to ensure the local townspeople kept their silence. The film is likely to focus not just on the murders but also on the slow but ultimately successful way in which the FBI agents earned locals' trust and persuaded them to speak about the unspeakable.